Looking over an old 2004 journal, I found an entry about a dream that gave me a new little bit of personal philosophy.
“April 19, 2004 – I had one of those interesting moments early this morning where I gave some definition in my sleep which amounted to utter wisdom. This one was in answer to a testing question given to me in my dream. I never remember the question when I wake and I’m sure that a totally different answer was expected. I know this because of the reaction to my answer.
I literally “stopped traffic” and changed the course of things so thoroughly that the original question was completely erased from the memory of The Questioner. He visualized, so completely, the scene created by my answer, that He admitted that He couldn’t, at all, remember where He was going with the original question; or what He had expected me to say. Whatever it was, it wasn’t as positive as the idea that I came up with.
I believe that the stimulus to the question was the sight of a handful of things (small things like grains of sand) being tossed into the air. I heard myself give the answer: “Life is the time between the split second that something is tossed into the air and the moment that it lands.”
I went on to explain that when it is airborne, it is fluid and can be affected and changed. But that the moment it lands, all becomes fixed and static again. I thought of how a gust of wind could rearrange the airborne particles; or how a chance scattering could occur due to many causes. A hand might move through them, or a bird, or a vehicle. If the particles themselves had a will to move, then their movement was only possible during that freedom time and not before or after the toss-up.
This brief life is the malleable period. How are we responding to the opportunities for movement? How do we create our course of events or react to the unexpected stirrings of our fortune? How do we view the Decline…that inevitable second half of the toss, when we are falling ever closer to the ground; and then, the moment when life ends and the toss-up is completely over?
Do we unreasonably wish that the upward ride would continue forever? Do we want perpetual youth and no end to the toss of the dice? No conclusion? No fortune read?
If so, we are foolishly choosing the half in which we know very little and in which we can only discern the blue of the sky. It is simply the exhilaration of the momentum that we are attracted to; not the time of true possibilities after the apex is attained. On the way down, if we should open our eyes and look about, we would see the vast earth spread out below and we could begin to draw a few conclusions. Perhaps we would decide to ride the wind and aim for those attractive possibilities we see along the way. Maybe we could soar, instead of plummeting like a rock.
Hopefully however, we’d be good sports about the fact that our momentary ride is coming to a conclusion when we see the earth and our own personal landing pad looming ever closer. Who do we think we are, never to come down? Would we really choose to be an “Incomplete Toss?” An “Unconcluded Thing?” An Unfinished Symphony?”
Not I! I want to do it all and I want to fully experience that landing down. Then, when I’m “Somewhere Else,” I’d like to review the toss-up and learn my lessons from it.
In June of 2007, I cut out this quote from an AARP article titled: “50 Things One Should Know How To Do By Age 50:”
“HOW TO DIE – The point of the party is not your leaving it. Apologize for any breakage, thank your hosts, listen when they say they were glad you could come, mean it when you say you had a wonderful time, then grab your coat and go. Make sure the door closes behind you. Don’t forget your hat.”
That’s exactly what I’ve been saying all along about the art of dying and how to go gracefully. My third book, a scripted novel called “And Yet A Little While” deals with the subject of death in the larger context of birth; life and its living; and life and its leaving. That’s why I had to applaud my son and how he handled his departure. (See Two Months Ago, My Son Died, a couple of blogs back)
It is true that the point of the party is neither your own personal arrival nor your departure. For each of us, it’s about what happens during your time at the party itself. Did you enjoy it? Did you contribute to its success and add to the whole of it? Or did you simply fill your plate and go sulk in the corner?
Did you consume everyone’s attention in your refusal to leave the party at your appointed time? Did you drink too much or steal the host’s silverware? Or, did you lend a hand, tell some funny jokes, make a lonely person feel included and have a genuinely good time yourself? Would you be invited back again? Will anyone remember that you attended?
I think the party analogy is a very good one for examining a life lived out on earth. That works for me. The dying analogy of how one leaves is good too. If an early departure becomes necessary, be sure that you don’t forget the protocol by bumbling out like an ox, thinking only of yourself or swearing that all the fun will be gone from the event, once you are not there to add to its luster. No. One should quietly say their goodbyes and make an exit without spoiling the party for everyone else. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be missed or that you shouldn’t stick around as long as you’re permitted to. But if the taxi is honking in the street, it’s time to go.
The “point of the party” is not simply about one person’s presence within it. The party of life is an ongoing celebration of well-lived lives, some still in progress and others not. The singing, the dancing, the wallflowering, the romancing and the stepped-on toes will still go on, long after you have taken your leave.
It’s just a party. There will be others, you know.