A Morning Meditation on the Urgency of Now
Today, I wake up before my wife stirs. I put on my slippers and bathrobe and exit our bedroom. The dog follows me downstairs. I let him outside and start boiling water while he does his business. I flip a switch and the fireplace roars to life.
I have a few words rolling around in my head that I’ve been rehearsing for the past two hours in bed, stirring in and out of consciousness. I write them down as quickly as I can before they’re gone forever. Everything is a haze but clear in its own way.
The water starts to boil. I make sure we have coffee. Through the window, I see the dog run from one end of the yard to the other. He’s dying. The doctors told us he had six months to live—that was eighteen months ago. Nothing is ever quite as it seems.
I write a line that feels good. Something came out on the page better than I had it my head; and that always happens, except when it doesn’t. The kettle is screaming to be noticed. I stop my work to attend to it.
Today, I am teaching a class on writing. I will try to make it simple and honest. There is nothing simple about this work, but it is honest. This work haunts me every day, calling me deeper into an integrity I do not know I am capable of. Writing makes me truthful.
Next week, I have a deadline. Today, I will work on that project but will be distracted by a number of stimuli begging my attention. I’ll have a call with someone I wouldn’t have imagined working with a year ago. My wife, whom I married late last year after a six-week engagement, will come downstairs. I hope she smiles.
After that, I don’t know what comes next. My schedule will tell me. I’ll have a friend over for a fire this evening, and we’ll smoke cigars and talk about life. It will be heavy and light. I haven’t eaten in thirty-six hours, and the buzz of the fast is starting to get to me, starting to clarify everything. I am both pensive and annoying in this state.
The coffee water is beginning to cool down, but I have to get this done before the world wakes up. Thinking clearly about anything in the daylight is difficult. How can you compete with creation? It makes sense to me that mystics experience revelation in dark caves, alone, that their awakenings happen in the midst of a “dark night.” That’s the only place anyone can get anything of value done, including God. The rest is just busy work.
Today, I will go for a walk and drink tea after my morning cup of coffee. I’ll read a few pages of a book, perhaps, and try to soak up every word. I’ll get dressed and sit outside this morning for a few minutes while the birds are still singing. Maybe put on a record while I get to work on this project before my class starts.
Oh, yeah. That. Don’t wait, I want to say. Hurry and sign up before the opportunity passes! But there is always another opportunity. And there is only ever This. How can one honestly talk about such things?
In my former life as a marketer, I subscribed to and promoted the immediacy of everything, always pushing for more. Faster, bigger, yes-yes-yes. Go, go, go. Urgency and scarcity were the name of the game, and they worked until they didn’t. What no one ever told me, though, was that you don’t have to create urgency. Every day is full of it. It is all we ever have: this one precious, fleeting moment that never seems to end. Until it does.
Thoreau called it “a newer testament—the gospel according to this moment.” That is, the awareness of everything in front of you right now. He wrote about this in his final essay published before he died, simply called “Walking.” It’s one of my favorites, because it is an entire treatise on the art form of moving around from place to place for several hours a day on your own two feet. That was the only thing that kept me sane during a pandemic—well, that and love. And a little bit of writing. Ol’ Henry David says that without trudging through the fields of his New England countryside every day for at least four to six hours, he would feel like an incomplete man. I can relate.
Yes, I think I will go for a walk today and not feel guilty for stepping away from my desk and home for an hour or two. The whole world comes into focus when you amble, getting lost down unknown streets in your own neighborhood or stumbling across a seemingly undiscovered field, path, or tree you never noticed before. Until you did.
No, I don’t have to create urgency. It’s right now. I don’t have to conjure up scarcity, either. This is all fleeting, all passing away sooner than we realize. I can see in the lines on my face, feel it in my aching bones. Everything is going away—including me—and yet, somehow still here. What can I do but try to enjoy it? Not capture it or attempt to hold on to what can never be grasped, but simply appreciate what is.
I think I’ll go have my coffee now.
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This spoke to me this morning as I prepared to urgently get 1000 words on the screen! God is never in a hurry! Ah, yes, Be Still, my soul.
Thanks Jeff for slowing me down with this meditation.
I love this. Thanks Jeff.