Do you believe we only live once?
Whether you do or you don’t, I think it’s fair to say that many of us have evolved to the very philosophy that we in fact do. We speak and lecture at length about the importance of seizing every moment and opportunity that comes our way because, well, this is our only shot. If you don’t make the most of this life, you’re pretty much fucked, bound to look back with a heart full of sorrow and a list overflowing of regrets.
Some might find such words and sentiments to be motivational. A hard truth, but a truth nonetheless. I, on the other hand, find it uselessly pessimistic.
To look at life from the perspective that we are living our one and only chance is more than just a little cruel. If we see this as the case, then no matter how much of this life we do seize, self-reproach is inevitable. Why are we not bearing in mind that if this life is in fact our only, that would have to mean it is also our first? If we exist just once, then the act of existing is as new to you and I as it is to everyone else in this world. We’re all adjusting to the exact same thing – to life. Don’t we deserve that small sense of reprieve? Don’t we deserve to offer forgiveness to ourselves as we do to others?
If we were to look at our endeavors and at our obstacles through a less defeatist lens, then surely we would be able to be more understanding of each other, not to mention more understanding of ourselves. Instead of regretting the occasions we missed out on, or the fleeting moments, or the chances which we did not grasp, we could commend ourselves for having been able to see them at all. We could say to ourselves, “good job,” and we could mean it. Perhaps with this mindset, we might be able to understand the reality of living, to empathize with one another’s struggles as we recognize that even simply surviving is, for many, the most difficult undertaking of all. Perhaps with this mindset, we could see that life is not simply a series of successes versus failures, that no one falls short; we are all very simply surviving the best we know how.
No two people are going to possess the same compass as they navigate their existence. Take for example words like “good” and “bad”. These words are going to mean different things to different people. And while such terms may feel more like principles which we have conditioned to dictate the very lives we live, the truth is that no life can be measured by words. The only power words hold is the power we let them hold. While our minds may be governed by time and deadlines, our self-esteem guided by our tangible triumphs, the universe is not bound by these phantom things. Be it fame or fortune, elation or disappointment, achievements or shortcomings, it all moves with the universe, drifting away as we do. A star short-lived is no less than a star long-lived; after all, they both become black holes in the end. What remains in the end will drift however which way, and with that, life carries on.
And if you were to consider that this life we are carrying on is our first, I don’t think you and I are doing too bad.