When I think of the most memorable, potent, inspiring, memorable, special meaningful moments of my life, they all involve connection. To people, to nature, to the divine.
Looking over the rim of the Grand Canyon. Running and yelling in costume with Japanese people as part of a samurai battle reenactment. Stomping in puddles with my brother during a rainstorm. Holding my grandmother’s hand as she was dying a little more every day in hospice. Staying up all night at a festival, listening and dancing to live music. Crying with friends as I support them going through tough times. Crying with friends as they support me going through tough times. Reading at the wedding of two friends whom I first introduced to each other. Moving and wailing and encouraging as part of helping facilitate monkey chant at Burning Man.
Consider how we mark special occasions. When I have earned diplomas, hundreds of people gathered to watch me and my classmates walk a short distance in order to shake someone’s hand and receive a folder with a piece of paper inside it. Those were, really, special moments. But they didn’t relate at all with my actual education. At no time during any graduation celebrations did I share something I did to earn my diplomas. I never emailed a paper or presented a project to anyone. None of my friends or family has ever seen my transcripts.
Clearly, the significance at those occasions was the connection—the connection is often more important than the content of the occasion.
You don’t need a crowd to age another year.
But often people gather together for a birthday, for the sake of connection.
You don’t need a crowd to get married.
But often people gather together for a wedding, for the sake of connection.
You don’t need a crowd to receive a diploma.
But often people gather together for a graduation, for the sake of connection.
You don’t need a crowd to stop working.
But often people gather together for a retirement party, for the sake of connection.
You don’t need a crowd to die.
But often people gather together for a funeral, for the sake of connection.
Two of the most important lessons that life has taught me are that there are no guarantees and never enough time. Meaning that I don’t necessarily know when things will change, or I’ll see someone for the last time. Nor will I ever has as much time as I’d like, whether I want to read books or listen to music or visit new places or enjoy the company of loved ones.
Daily life naturally entails a lot of things I don’t really want to do. I hate cleaning. I hate cleaning a LOT. I’d rather help someone organize his tax documents than clean my own kitchen. So, I give a lot of consideration to how I spend my pleasure time, since I will never have as much of it as I would like.
I learned this lesson most fully about a decade ago, when my three remaining grandparents all died within a span of six months. For many years, they had all maintained fairly stable health. Then they all turned for the worse and deteriorated very quickly. No one saw any of the changes coming. And I never had enough time with any of them. Not even close.
As my last grandparent’s life ebbed, I still went to work every day. I didn’t neglect my responsibilities. But I refused to allow anything non-essential to prevent me from having time with my grandmother. I could have done a lot of sensible things in all the times I visited her in the hospital and the hospice. I could have worked more and advanced my career, for example. Instead, I frequently left exactly on time, at the earliest possible moment I was allowed. I knew that my boss never respected me much, given my lack of commitment, as he saw it.
But that job was not part of my purpose as a human. In those months, I knew that my best potential was to spend time with my grandmother as she was dying. Those visits were complete, pure, utter love. No distractions, no responsibilities, sometimes not even much conversation. Just acknowledgement of the time we had left. She didn’t need me there in order to reach her mortality. But I wanted to be there, for the sake of connection.
I could ramble with plenty of other examples, of course. Like how I can’t understand why people complain about not having cell service in the woods. You can’t connect with nature unless you have Instagram? That’s not my purpose for going into the woods.
There is so much to savor in the world—so much magic, art, wonder, amazing feats. Too much for hundreds of lifetimes. It’s impossible to take in even of a fraction of it. So why reduce the time and energy and attention you have in this life for what’s not meaningful?
This is our highest potential, our best purpose as humans—to create channels and portals and spaces for connection and expansion and love. All the other stuff, the chores and the jobs and the responsibilities—sure, we have to do our tasks. But it’s vital that those tasks don’t end up overwhelming the things that matter the most.
When I think of the most memorable, potent, inspiring, memorable, special meaningful moments of my life, they all involve connection. To people, to nature, to the divine. Actually, all those things are already connected—because they’re all the same.
SK © 2015