Life is short. Life is fragile. We’re reminded of this every time someone in our community or someone close to us passes onto the next life–especially young people. As cliché as it may seem, we need to appreciate each and every moment we have the opportunity to breathe fresh air, to smile up at the sun, to spend time with others, to feel any of the multitude of emotions we as humans can experience–whether they are positive or negative.
I could write extensively on the value of life and the importance of recognizing its fragility in our everyday lives, but I’d rather make this more concise. I’ve made a list of simple experiences everyone could benefit from having. I’ve done this with the hope that someone may see the world through a new lens, a more beautiful lens, a lens that makes one appreciate little things that may have been taken for granted.
- Wake up naturally. – Wake up with the sun, when birds begin chirping, with the sound of landscaping, with your body’s internal alarm, when your dogs get anxious to go outside or your children become restless. Experience the peace of breaking from slumber without the jarring nature of an alarm.
- Give/receive ‘real’ hugs. – Truly embrace people. We are being graced with their presence. No one knows how many more times the opportunity will exist. Don’t side arm it. Don’t just awkwardly pat their back. If a hug isn’t appropriate, a handshake should be initiated anyways.
- Write messages/letters. – Everyone enjoys an unexpected text message, email, or social media interaction, but where’s the humanity in that? We’re allowing technology to speak on our behalf, to eliminate the human element from our communication. Holding someone’s personal handwritten words is much more moving than looking at computer generated characters.
- Break from technology. – Are we ever without our phones, tablets, or computers? Better yet, are we ever without our watches or other means of keeping track of time? Make time to shut out these influences. Take actual breaks from “civilization.” Get lost on some hiking trails. Find a remote, tourist-free, traveler-free beach. Get away from everything we couldn’t have enjoyed in the 1800s–not the 1980s, the 1800s. Get your scattered brain back.
- Give undivided attention. – We’re always distracted or looking for something to occupy our time and thoughts with. Do we ever truly give people our undivided attention? Do we constantly glance at our phones while visiting our grandparents? Do we read emails during meetings? Do we make people feel like their time isn’t valuable to us, or do we communicate our priorities through action? Do we focus all of our energies towards one thing at a time? Do we put everything we can into everything we do? Would we be embarrassed of anything we have created or have done? If we had given each routine task or major project our undivided attention, how different would our lives be? Would we be eager to share our work with others at the office? Would we be excited to invite people to dinner parties at our spotless homes?
- Connect with nonhuman life. – No, I’m not referring to the extraterrestrial–not even to just “the environment.” Let’s not go around hugging inanimate trees, thinking we’re bound to get something out of it. Put yourself around animals for long periods of time. Observe them, but don’t stop there. Connect with them. Appreciate their animalistic features: their black-and-white intentions, their ability to love unconditionally, their lack of bias, their lack of prejudice, their lack of unnecessary want.
- Explore immense landscapes. – Despite how big our heads can metaphorically get, we as humans are still small beings. Yes, even you, Mr. NFL Player… Have you ever closely looked at the world we live in? There are lakes bigger than countries. There are mountains taller and bigger than anything manmade will ever be. How many gallons of water are in the ocean? Or how many blue whales are swimming around in it? Those whales can weigh nearly half a million pounds each. We’re not Jonah. Respect the beasts among us. Acknowledge how small we are, how minute we truly are in the grand scheme of things. Experience God’s grand, awe-inspiring creations.
- Destroy substance/addiction tolerance. – Maybe we aren’t dependent on any sort of substances–alcohol, drugs, tobacco, food, et al., but maybe on occasion we have five drinks or smoke a boatload without even realizing it. Maybe we can eat three Big Macs without experiencing any negative side effects–no discomfort in our bowels, regret, or fullness. Let’s cut ourselves off for a bit. Even if we don’t have the intentions of “quitting,” hear me out for a minute… Most people could go a few months without an alcoholic drink or an unhealthy treat, so why don’t we ever do it? Just because? Go a long period of time without a vice. Take beer for example. Stop drinking six beers in one sitting twice per week. Go cold turkey for a couple months. Then enjoy one ice-cold brewski ever so slowly. Let’s see how our bodies and minds react to this type of consumption as opposed to intaking substances and satisfying cravings immediately. Why not see how it affects us–cognitively, emotionally, or otherwise?
- Achieve progressively lofty goals. – Notice how I said “achieve” rather than “set” goals. Why do this? Were we given this life to idly watch 100 years pass us by? Everyone has something they would like to do, accomplish, or be, but not everyone does something about it. We can begin with the trivial. Imagine: You’re shooting basketball at the gym. You’re not going to leave until you hit five 3s in a row, then drain a half-court shot. How great does it feel when you finally nail it? Someone might argue we’d only experience fleeting happiness, but little tastes of accomplishment can inspire people to surpass their misperceived potentials.
- Make more eye contact. – Give strangers warm smiles with solid eye contact. The small gesture could literally be a “gift” to someone on a bad day or at a bad point in their lives. Acknowledge people’s existence. Homeless people are human, too… just sayin’. Show interest in people and in what they’re communicating. Do you think our loved ones would rather receive passive glances when we converse, or would they like to look directly into our attentive eyes? The only people who don’t communicate with their eyes are those who don’t have them, so let’s use ours and appreciate the life inside of others.
Let’s stop perceiving the seemingly ordinary as mundane. Let’s experience life as it was intended. Savor each and every moment.
Songs on my playlist today:
- Human by Christina Perri
- Change the World by Eric Clapton
- Religion by Skylar Grey