December 17      

Today's quotation:

Ideally, every human being ought to live each passing moment of his or her life as if the next moment were to be their last.  We ought to be able to live in the constant expectation of immediate death and to live like this, not morbidly, but serenely.

Arnold Toynbee

Today's Meditation:

I often say to other people, "If I get hit by a bus tomorrow and die. . . ."  I only kind of mean it as a joke-- a part of me knows that the possibility of me dying tomorrow isn't great, but it's there.  And keeping that in mind helps me to make sure that I'm appreciating all that's available to me in the present moment.  If I knew that I was going to die in an hour, after all, there would be nothing to keep me from breathing deeply of the fresh air available to me now, from being thankful for the blessings that I have, from noticing the beautiful things that surround me right here and now.

As Arnold says, though, this is an ideal, not a reality.  It would be nice if we were to live this way, but most of us don't-- rather, we spend our time thinking about things that we wish we had, or about what we want to accomplish next week or next month or next year.  We don't spend a lot of time focused on what's around us here and now, the blessings that are with us all the time.  And that's quite a shame, because when we live that way, we lose track of those many beautiful things that are in our lives all the time, so that this moment right now is a very special moment, indeed.

So what does it mean to live each moment as if it were our last?  What does it mean to focus on the present moment fully and completely in order to try not to miss a single thing that it offers us?  To me, it simply means being aware of all that we have, all that is ours, in a way that allows us to appreciate our blessings and make the most of them.  That little girl that's begging for attention may be the best place for us to put our attention; or perhaps the sunset that's happening outside our home is begging us to partake of its beauty and radiance.  When this life ends, we won't be able to do any of these things any more, so why not do them now, while we can?

Taking advantage of our present moments is simply one of the blessings that we can experience if we keep in mind the fact that one day we're going to die.  Death keeps us focused on the present moment and on enjoying our lives-- but only if we allow it to keep us so occupied.  And we can prepare ourselves for death really in only one way-- by enjoying to the fullest all of the many blessings that have been given to us.  Our impending deaths are always a strong reminder of the need to stay focused on the present moment so that when our eventual death becomes our impending death, we don't need to worry about never having taken advantage of the many present moments that have been given to us, one after the other, our entire lives long.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things does death remind you to take advantage of while you're still alive?

Why do so many people seem to refuse to consider the possibility of death at all?

Why do so many of us fear death instead of allowing our impending death to teach us many valuable lessons?

For further thought:

Since we live with death, we ought to think of it while living.  To settle accounts, to draw a balance, is important and useful.  The pastors should make it clear that it can be anyone's turn next; that everyone's turn comes at some point; that to prepare oneself is good.

Peter Noll

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