“I guess it comes down to a simple choice really, get busy living or get busy dying.”
– Andy talking with Red in The Shawshank Redemption.
I’ve always loved this quote. It seems simple enough, but there’s a lot to it. Some people say we are in the process of dying from the moment we are born. That’s an organic process. Can’t change it. Can’t stop it. But we can change what we’re doing when we’re alive. While we’re still breathing.
It really takes no action to “get busy dying.” All you have to do is sit there. It’s happening. I suppose you can do some things to speed up the process. One of those things is to live in the past, while the present passes one by.
But it does take action to “get busy living.” That implies something more than just sitting around. Sure, sitting around is living too, just like the dying part. Interesting how equal action, or inaction, can be two opposite things at the same time 🙂
To get busy at living means to fill your days with something meaningful. To distort time. To claim more from each hour than is really possible.
So how do we do that? Live?
Well right now there is plenty of information floating around out there about being “mindful” and the importance of living in the here and now. Our minds tend to drift. We tend to ruminate about the past and we often fixate on the future. Next thing you know, the present moment is gone. And we’re just sitting there a dying.
It ain’t easy living in the moment.
But, maybe we can take our future thoughts and turn them against our past thoughts – let them cancel out so we’re back in the present. How?
I picked up on a strategy this past week.
It might work, for a while, or it might not. I’m not sure. But like many things in life, I stumbled on this one quite by accident when I was thinking about future travels.
You see, there are a couple of places on my bucket list that require advance planning. They are so popular, and magnificent, that you have to get placed on a waiting list in advance of the opening days for making a lodging reservation. The opening days for a reservation are one full year in advance of your planned arrival date, and it’s best to get on that waiting list at least six months before.
Crazy, but you’re having to plan a trip a year-and-a-half in advance!
What’s crazy about that is there are so many uncertainties. So many unpredictable things that may develop between now and then. What if such and such happens? What if I’m too ill to travel? What if a new person comes into my life? What if finances change? What’s the weather going to be like? What if I have no way to get to that destination eighteen months from now? What if I got busy dying and didn’t make it that long?
So many variables.
It’s hard to think that way. Way-ahead. But I found that if I would let go and try to lock in an uncertain future, I had to let go of both, the past and the future.
I had to quit thinking about past. Past successes and failures don’t apply. Can’t worry about others coming and going in my life – from the past or the future. Can’t worry about the future not manifesting because of unforeseen barriers. All of those variables, which are based on the ways we think about past and future experiences, had to stop.
And I found that while I was thinking about and planning something forward in time, I was living in the here and now while I was doing it. My day was filled with imagination of the things to see. Of achieving the goal. And when the initial planning phase passed, I was still in the moment organizing, exploring, strengthening, galvanizing a purpose.
Maybe that’s cheating a bit. But time is racing by and I’ve outlined some schemes that will have me in a later moment hiking those trails, appreciating the beauty of Nature, expanding time and squeezing more into the hours than is really possible. I’ll be “getting busy living.”
And I got busy living by planning about getting busy living 🙂
I have removed the obstacles from the past and the worries about the future that prevented me from marching forward in the here and now. I least I can hope. And that reminds me of another good quote from that movie.
“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Photo: This is one of those Midwestern sunsets. I have adjusted the lighting a little to remove the overexposure effect you get from pointing a camera straight at a light source. But you can’t add what’s not already there. The beauty of that here and now moment. May you all have so many more such moments.