Some years back when I still lived in Northern Virginia my closest friend from New York (and best man in my wedding) was coming to DC for a large food show. He had a posh hotel room in China Town and wanted to catch up, making an evening of it. I rode the metro in, we met for dinner, walked town and chatted long into the night about life and love. The next morning my body clock went off well before six and he was a late sleeper. The previously hashed plan was for me to quietly grab a shower and slip downstairs to the lavish hotel court where breakfast was housed. I could spend the morning with a cup of coffee and the Washington Post leaving him to his rest. It was a minute to six when I walked up encouraging them to open. The tables sat in a large center square that gave an outside feeling as the hotel rooms flanking it stretching up each side for a number of stories before they melted into a glass atrium. I was well into the paper probably 8-12 pages deep and had people watched dozens of businessmen and politicians wandering through when some oddly dressed lads patted in and sat not far from me. It’s an international town, DC, so men in red dresses don’t surprise us, thus I went back to my black and white.
Serendipitously, not two minutes later, I turned the page to read a short backstory about the Dalai Lama who was visiting town for a lecture series; a picture of a man in a red dress accompanied it! He had odd square glasses in the picture and looked just like one of the ‘red dresses’ who sat a few feet away from me. In my disbelief I scanned the piece further to find where he lectured and then put my iPhone ‘maps app ‘ to work investigating said lecture hall. And, it was…a block away. I never asked Dalai (I call him this now that we are so familiar) what his topic was but I wonder if it didn’t include the amazing quote that tripped me up this week. He was asked once what surprised him most about humanity. His response was, “Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present: the result being that he does not live in the present or the future: he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived”.
I have churned that quote over and over again the last seven days; like an ornery coffee bean escaping the teeth of the grinder I can’t seem to take it in. It’s not that I expect to create such profound remarks myself but I would at least like to absorb and apply them to my puny life. After all, the last thing I want for my family or myself is to die not really having lived. So, how do I not be ‘that guy’?
Clearly it’s different for each of us, different as we each visit a new stage of life and different depending on the constantly changing world around us. My simpleness wants to put this into a box. But we don’t live in a 3-dimensional space, we live in 4-dimensions. Dalai’s comment ends in a quote but our life doesn’t. Time is the fourth dimension. What something looks like today, over time and long past the quotation marks, changes and is completely new. His observation of human nature poignantly states the problem and clearly avoids a solution, because the solution isn’t the end but it’s the beginning. It’s a mantra of sorts that we have to take into our every decision; for we can’t make a new a beginning we can only make a new ending. With that we each make sacrifices. This is a reality of living on a sinful Earth. Sacrifices to either, spend time with our kids and shorten work or to to work and shorten family time. Sacrifices to advance new knowledge or advance other pieces of our wellbeing. With each decision we make, we must evaluate the sacrifice. Somehow while weighing these decisions we have to simultaneously read the future, anticipating the results. But altogether, in spite of the murkiness, it’s quite clear. The decisions we make on a day-to-day basis must be grounded in achieving the results that aren’t work or labor oriented but life oriented. Results can’t be measured on a spreadsheet but only in a smile. Life doesn’t exist to support work but work exists to support life. Living is the priority. And, if a sacrifice is ever made it must be to advocate “really having lived”. How do you really live?