Friday, May 20, 2011

On Mortality, the End of the World, and Those Joyful Moments in Life

Couch on the Porch by Frederick Childe Hassam



Sometimes, I have to ask myself, Why do things happen the way they do? And because there’s usually not a clear-cut answer to the question, I just let it go and move along. But this morning… this morning was something else.

My husband and I woke up early. Not unusual. As soon as we got up, he flipped on the TV. Unusual. We don’t normally watch TV in the morning. But I guess this morning he felt the urge, for one reason or the other. And we sat together and watched the news. And a segment came on about the End of Days. This segment was not all news to us, though; we’d been hearing about this phenomenon for the past few weeks. Apparently, there’s a group of people who believe tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is the beginning of the end of the world… or the end of it… or something like that. To be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to it all because I don’t believe in any of that drabble. The end of my world is when I die. Selfish, but true. But then, my husband turned to me and said, “What would you do today if tomorrow really was the end of the world?” And it’s funny that I took his question seriously, all things considered. But I did. And without a moment’s pause, I said, “I’d read. And I’d write. What would you do?” And he said, “I don’t know. I have to think about it.” And we had breakfast, while discussing what he would do. And he left for the day.

But it didn’t end there for me, because his question struck something inside me. Something… elemental. And I got to thinking, Well, what if tomorrow really was the end of the world? How would I go about today? And it came to me naturally that I would read. And I would write. Because there’s really not much you can do in a single day that would truly leave its mark. And so that’s just what I decided to do, today. I read. And I wrote. And I read. And I wrote. And I drank tea… but not just any tea… my favorite tea—Earl Grey with lemon slices. And for lunch, I cooked my favorite meal—angel hair with cherry tomato and garlic basil sauce. And with my lunch, I had a glass of dry red wine, which I sipped slowly while eating, also slowly. And after lunch, I watched Immortal Beloved. And by the end of the movie, I was ready for some fresh air, so I went out to my back porch and watered my plants. And then I grabbed a book and read some more, right there on my back porch… because by then, the sun had moved to the other side of my house, and there was an irresistible breeze swishing around like a ghost. And I listened to Vivaldi… and Albinoni… because Baroque was just the mood of the day. And when I felt saturated from reading and listening, I paused for a few minutes… actually, more like an hour… and did nothing at all. Well, that’s a lie. I did something: I thought. About Life. About Time. About Mortality. About my own End of the World. And what would I like for that to look like? And I realized that… if I had time… say, if I found out I was dying from a terminal disease but I had six months, things would be different than, say, if I just found out, for a fact, that the world was ending tomorrow. Because… if I had a terminal illness and a certain measure of time, I would want to travel to my favorite places… and spend time with my favorite people… doing my favorite things... and maybe… I would want to do something with which to immortalize myself… not literally… but… you know. But, given only twenty-four hours, I had chosen the more solitary experiences of reading… and writing… and enjoying some of my favorite things by myself. And… after thinking and thinking… I wrote some more. And before I knew it, late afternoon was here and my husband was at the door.

“How was your day, princess?”
“It was slow. And delicious.”
“Delicious! What did you do?”
“I read. And I wrote. Among other things.”
“Other things like what?”
“Like tea. And angel hair. And a movie. And just… nothing.”
“Well, that’s nice that you had some free time, today. But, really? You did nothing? I don’t see you doing nothing, Nevine.”
“Trust me, I did nothing.”
“Okay, you did nothing. But while you were doing nothing, your mind was buzzing at a hundred miles an hour. Right?”

And he pulled me close. And we smiled at one another. And here was another joyful moment in my day. But it wasn’t a solitary moment. It was a shared moment. Although, I have to say that today, having gone about things with thoughts of an end lingering… just there… I realized with full clarity that, shared or solitary, the most joyful moments in life are both delivered… and received…
solemnly…
patiently…
serendipitously…
one at a time.


27 comments:

  1. Well, this news was making waves here as well but I did not give much thought to it. But as I was reading your post, I was mentally trying to think what I would've done if today was the last day of my life. I couldn't come up with anything. All these thoughts are so remote and yet so close, you see. I know that the world will end and death will accost me but if someone asks me a question on spending the last day, I would be completely clueless.

    How much we relish life and mortality inspite of knowing that all of it will end someday. Life gives me reasons for living (maybe death as well :)

    Lovely to wake up with this post, dear Nevine. I wish you a wonderful weekend and see you at the other side (if the world ends today).

    Joy always,
    Susan

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  2. As I read this, Nevine--your soliloquy--I felt myself being lifted into a world of the spirit.

    The accompanying music just put me near to heaven.
    Combined with your words, the conversation at the end with your husband, and the 'picture of another
    Nevine' by F Childe Hassam, this is a most-well-balanced, mesmerizing post. Many here should bow to you and your talent(s)...
    PEACE!
    Steve

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  3. that was beautiful & natural. I enjoyed reading it :)

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  4. Hello ma belle!
    Ton billet est très émouvant et résonne en moi.
    Ton programme m'irait à ravir et je n'achète qu'un seul thé, c'est le (Russian) Earl Grey;o)
    Et la musique, je l'ai arrêtée pour ne pas pleurer, et aussi parce que j'ai peu de temps à moi ce matin. Ce midi on fait un barbecue avec des amis, on sera 14 ou 15, selon qu'un ami d'une amie peut venir ou pas;o) et après tout, si on doit mourir, je mourrai en bonne compagnie!
    Ma fille cadette, Johanna, m'en a parlé quand elle est venue passer le weekend dernier avec nous, et elle a dit que la fin était prévue pour le 21 décembre 2012!
    So let's wait and see!
    En attendant, profitons de chaque instant que la vie veut bien nous accorder!

    ***
    Gros BIZZZOUZZZZ à toi et un grand bonjour à ton hubby****

    ps: je reviendrai écouter la musique dès que j'aurai un moment pour moi toute seule;o)
    Re-gros-bisous. SMACK SMACK SMACK.

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  5. Thought provoking post, Nevine.

    Religious predictions aside, our lives are governed by the certainty of our mortality. For many, there's a sub-conscious awareness that underpins daily life. But for some, crossing the fine line into infinity, exists much closer to the surface. With this degree of appreciation, we are led to examine our existence in minutes, and without taking anything for granted.

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  6. Thankyou for the subject to contemplate upon....

    A colleague at work lost her brother two days ago....internal hemorrage!

    He was ailing,
    hoping to live a few more months, go visit a few places he loved with his wife,
    but the end for him came much before he expected....
    His message to his sister and family was....'Appreciate what you 've, Find joy in the things that is before you - 'Now'....

    Update your feelings and thoughts,
    reconcilate with your sorrow, allow space for joy...so you can leave with a heart much lighter than it will be!

    Above all
    Find where love has left its traces within you if you can!
    i thought of sharing this with you!
    hugs.
    col

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  7. Having grown up in a household in which The End Times was an article of faith, I have spent the last few days bemused by the whole experience. And,yet, as you have so ably done here, it is an opportunity for everyone to savor the present moment and to make it as marvelous as one can. And perhaps that is the lesson for every day, not just this day.

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  8. Sounds like a simply beautiful, quiet way to spend a day. Well, it's after six, and the world hasn't ended. Instead your lovely selection of music is soothing all shadows away.

    Reminds me of one of my all time favorite lines from a movie, in Breaker Morant, an Australian film about the Boer War, where Harry Morant says at one point something to the effect of : You should live each day as though it were your last, because one day you are bound to be right.

    Write on, Nevine !

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  9. Your words are beautful Nevine. Yesterday I signed in to my own blog to post a memorial message to the partner of a friend who had died suddenly in the early hours of 21 May. I was drawn by the title of your post and read it several times before posting my own.

    Like you I don't have much time for general 'end of the world' predictions, nor do I belive that Jim's death is the end of the world for my friend, although it may feel that way to him right now. But your thoughts on the brevity of an individual life and the simple pleasures that enrich it consoled me at a moment of deep personal sadness.

    I, too, would read and write, make marks, and drink Earl Grey tea. In fact I shall do all of those things today as I wake to a world that has not ended, Thank you.

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  10. So true, these are small packets, that are given one at a time so that we can enjoy every bit of each one.
    And someone has rightly said, that live like there is no tomorrow and today is the last day.

    Nice read.

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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  11. excellent piece of music... and thoughts

    i played around on the computer, read, had a nap, talked on the phone a bit, shared jokes... when son came home from work, had a laugh at the millions disappointed the world did NOT end... had supper together... cheeseburgers and beer... read some more... did not write... another phone call... off to sleep

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  12. Susan - Yes, life does give us such reasons for living, doesn't it? And it's such a pleasure to enjoy those reasons... and to enjoy life itself. Maybe it's because we do know it will end one day that we enjoy it all the more. Oh, well, lovely to know we're all still here, now, isn't it, dear Susan? :-)

    Steve - Thank you, Steve. I'm happy to know you enjoyed this post. It was a bit of a quick write for me, but it was fun to go back briefly over my day, that evening, and remember all those special moments. I think it will also be fun to go back and read it again in a couple of months... or a couple of years. That's why we do this, no? :-)

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  13. Camille - Thank you.

    Cremilde - Donc, on a le même goût! ;-) Earl Grey... oui, c'est mon thé. Et j'aime bien aussi le Russian Earl Grey de Palais des Thés! Et bien, on est encore là. J’espère que tu as passé un bel après-midi en compagnie de tes amies, ma belle! Et la musique sera toujours ici! ;-) Gros bisous et je te souhaite une bonne semaine!!! En attendant le 2012... ;-)

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  14. Martin - It's true. I do think when we ask ourselves the question, "What would I do?" it immediately becomes clear to us... almost with an urgency.

    COL - And thank you for sharing. As always, your words and stories are an inspiration for me, COL. I think life determines, in more ways than we can imagine, how we act and react to certain things. I wish your colleague comfort and peace as she goes through this difficult time. I know you will be a solid anchor for her, too. Hugs back to you, my dear friend.

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  15. Judy - Yes, it would seem it is the lesson for every day. Though, I have to admit, so often I am distracted by life's demands that I don't think about living the day as if it were my last. And that is such a hard habit to break!

    Owen - It did turn out to be quite the lovely day, and so very different than I would have played it out had the conversation in the morning never happened. Yes, the world hasn't ended; we're still here. But then, I think we all already knew that was going to be the end result anyway, right? :-)

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  16. Anhrefn - I am humbled to know my words were soothing at such a difficult and trying time. It would seem it is always the simple pleasures that we most want to enjoy if we feel we are pressed for time, because they are usually the most true. I wish both you and your friend peace in a time of darkness that is a challenge to navigate.

    Blasphemous Aesthete - Indeed! Thank you for stopping in and sharing your thoughts, Blasphemous Aesthete.

    LW - So glad to know you also enjoyed a nice day. And why would anyone be disappointed the world did not end? It seems a bit masochistic to me...

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  17. i'm sure a lot of us engaged in the same conversation as you, if only with ourselves, yesterday - i now i certainly did - and with my [adult] children - for me, my time is clearly dictated by my love for them - and for their children and their children - and i cannot think of a single thing a single moment i would rather do or spend with anyone or anything but them - and it's true, it sometimes happens that the distractions of the day may steal our attention - in any event, having today is magnificent!

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  18. Oh, yes. Some more time here is sure a reason to celebrate.

    *Clinks glasses*

    Till the world ends . . . Cheers.

    Joy always,
    Susan

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  19. Jenean - I would say that most of us didn't believe 5/21/2011 was going to be the end of the world. Still, it was nice to imagine it was... just to be able to see things from another angle. Most of the time, we're too caught up in the details of life to just look at the big picture. So, yes! It was wonderful to push the details to the side and just "be!"

    Susan - Cheers to you too, Susan!

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  20. I love your 'final' day Nevine? And again, enamored with your writing style, your final day takes me on a journey into a kind of romantic melancholy place. And hello! It is good to visit and 'see' you dear Nevine, it's been a long time indeed. Big hugs...

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  21. Je me promène de blog en blog en écoutant Albinoni et en sifflant! J'en suis à la quatrième...oups! cinqième écoute;o) He he he!
    Je suis allée lire tes belles pensées dans TNL, et j'espère que tes anges toujours te susurrent à l'oreille de belles pensées à partager avec nous;o)
    Belle journée, ma belle;o)
    SMACK SMACK SMACK!

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  22. well its now the 25 and we are still here :) I am so tired of the fear mongers getting news time...ugggggggg

    hugs dear friend

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  23. Beautifully written, Nevine!

    Oh the joy of reading and writing... There's nothing like it. And yes, like you, that's what I would do if I knew I only had one day to live.

    (*aside* I didn't believe any of that nonsense about May 21st either. It was such a scam.)

    I adore Adagio by Albinoni! Such a beautiful creation that pulls at everything vital within me.

    Jai

    PS: your husband sounds wonderful!

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  24. Cat - It's great to see you here! Thanks for the lovely visit... and the kind words. Yes, it has been such a long time. I think I can even say that about visiting my own blog, today! ;-) Hugs, Cat!

    Mildred - How many days ago was that? Plusieurs jours!!! I lost myself in schoolwork, these past few days and abandoned all blogging and everything else in life. It's a relief for me to come back here and listen to this music, too! I need to post something new here, soon. What stagnation! He he he... Merci pour la visite, ma belle! Even TNL has suffered my absence... ;-)

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  25. David - :-)

    Jai - My hubby is the most awesome! And it was such a pleasure to steal that day from between the teeth of Time. And here I am suffering for it... I haven't been able to do anything these past few days but work on school stuff. But, at least I have the memory of that day to carry with me. Reading and writing... and cooking... are such pleasures! Thanks, Jai!!! :-)

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  26. Coucou Nevine!
    J'espère que tu es un peu moins submergée par le travail et que tout se passe pour le mieux!
    Ne t'inquiète pas pour l'absence d'activité dans tes blogs. Tes beaux textes peuvent êtres lus et relus sans qu'on se lasse;o)
    Je viens d'aller lire tes deux derniers billets dans "TNL".
    La lettre est une pure merveille, et j'espère que l'homme qui l'a suscitée connaît sa chance;o)
    J'ai aussi adoré ton poème sur les pièces jetées dans les fontaines par les amoureux qui rêvent d'amour éternel! Adorable, tout simplement!
    Merci de nous faire rêver avec de si beaux textes, ma belle amie;o)

    SMACK SMACK SMACK!

    ps: donne un grand bonjour à qui tu sais;o)

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  27. Mildred - Tu es une fée! :-) Et, je lui dirai... ;-) Gros bisous, ma belle!

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Your thoughts are deeply appreciated.