Your throat closes up. No air enters. No words exit. Your chest expands from the inside, nearly shattering your sternum. You feel every pulse in your veins like morse code in a time of war.
It’s a sensation that’s familiar but you’ve never grown accustomed to.
"What is this that I’ve consumed? Peanuts? Eggs? Gluten?"
No. This isn’t anaphylactic shock.
This is love entering your bloodstream.
Before you’ve had the chance to stick your trembling fingers into the back of your golfball-sized tonsils, it’s already too late. Love takes over. The logic department of your brain calls in sick. The senior writer of your once eloquent speech is replaced by a five-year old with an 8-pack of Crayola.
You try to resist, but that is proven futile as all control slips right through your fingers. You try the next best – mask your symptoms. Like a stumbling drunk or one who has mistakenly took Nyquil in the day, with his head dangling like a piñata, you find no hope of hiding from others. You helpless fool.
Try to walk a straight line, but you find yourself spinning in circles. You, and the world around you. Your emotions set in unending motion.
By the time love has sunken its talons into your ill-prepared soul, you lay prone on the ground. Onlookers surround you. They poke at your back with sticks, as if to see if you were even alive.
Alive? That is the one thing you are certain you are.
You are alive.
Alive, alive alive.
"It is time now to realize the nature of the universe to which you belong, and of that controlling Power whose offspring you are; and to understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again."
A significant portion of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is made of passages like the one above – he implores the reader to consider the reality that his life is a faint glimmer on this good earth. Each moment is but a blink of the eye and each blink is all that exists in that given moment. Every morning we wake, our previous consciousness dies to be replaced by a new one slightly altered, sometimes in good fortune, better.
To hinge satisfaction on the future and on such a specific point future (such a certain city or even an amount in income) is a dangerous pursuit. Such a perspective results in only a fleeting kind of happiness. This is not to say that one should treat today with no regard for tomorrow. Aurelius does believe in “seeing to your own security while still you may.”
Even the capacity to learn and expand the mind exists only in the present with no guarantee of the same efficiency in the coming dawn. Today, there are towers of literature worth climbing and pools of art worth diving into. What worth is it to merely imagine the absorption of knowledge without turning a single page? Should one delay because the mood does not align with the vision? A fool would put off the task of enrichment until he is of hard heart and soft spine. At that point, hope is near extinguished.
In a more modern context, “YOLO” is a bastardized version of Aurelius’ beliefs. While built on a similar premise, it encourages its subscribers to destroy one’s life before nature has her chance. When one bears in mind the thought of a single lifetime, the response should not be a blind race to the end, consuming every momentary pleasure with zero inhibition. Rather, it should be a cause for urgency to use every drop of consciousness towards a more capable, enriched self – not only for the individual’s own pleasure, but for the sake of the surrounding society as well.
"You only live once." And so do those around you. Some live for a century, some for a fraction. Some are born into fortune, some are born with crumbs. Regardless of circumstance, consciousness, and with it reason, is a blessing one is hard-pressed to imagine not having. To squander this gift, to fail to consider this present, to live with a gaze that is perpetually elsewhere, is ingratitude without excuse.
As author Cheryl Strayed said, “You can’t control the cards you are dealt, but you have the responsibility to play the hell out of them.”
Do not wait for tomorrow for tomorrow will not wait for you.
I was at a local Los Angeles cafe when these high-pitched wails disrupted the rest of the patrons’ chai-powered tapping away of screenplays and Facebook statuses. The cacophony traced back to a table of modern Angeleno parents. The dad, wearing a formless rock band t-shirt, basketball shorts, and a faded paisley bandana, carried his designer dress clad daughter. He bounced her up and down his lap as the Lululemon-sponsored mothers exchanged post-pilates Kale shake recipes.
These people were the foreigners in the quaint altar of caffeine worshipers and laptop dwellers.They embodied the kind of first-world parent I am oddly amused by. The father, liberated of his shirt and tie regimen, had also been relieved of his testicles – now vacuum sealed between the mason jars of homemade almond milk and multi-colored quinoa. The mother, since the day after giving birth, has been a part of a contest to keep her waistline lower than that of her child.
The child wandered around, oblivious of the roundtable discussion of her upcoming seventh birthday. Little did she fret about gluten-free cupcakes and the elusive cruelty-free piñata.
"I find the rod to be a bit too old fashioned."
"Perhaps we can coax it into giving away the candy."
"Are we really going with the donkey shape? Isn’t that too primitive, and possibly politically charged?"
"How about we keep the rod, but we have a paper-mached pistachio instead?"
"Oh, that’s perfect."
"Let’s stuff it with dried plumbs and iTunes gift cards."
"And those Jawbone bracelets too!"
The daughter, likely named Divinity or Shea Butter or Galaxy Quest, tripped and screamed. The dad pacified her with their iPad housed in Alpaca fleece. With ease, her stubby polished fingers swiped through icons. She made her way to the photo album – an ever growing gallery of her digital biography.
The Amaro filter truly captured the agony of losing her first baby tooth.
She found herself in trouble after accidentally deleting the Twitter app, and with that, her dad’s latest clever tweet draft. He shut it off and stuffed it in his Catcher in the Rye book cover tote bag.
Before the little girl could conjure up a single tear, the mother’s iPhone glowed and chirped to remind them of their upcoming zero-gravity 100-degree clothing-free Zumba class. In one accord, they rose from their chairs. The father and daughter lead the way. The mother and the shriveled bodies of her juice-cleansed cronies follow. They say savasana, thank the baristas – and the Universe while they’re at it – then levitate out of there straight out the door, leaving a fairly decent tip and zero emissions behind.