I awoke this morning with an odd, but useful thought. What if this was the last day of my life? How would I spend it? Then I recalled a scene from a movie I saw years ago: “Billy Jack.” The main character was on trial and the prosecutor challenged him about his actions. Billy Jack answered that he had done the right thing. When the prosecutor asked how he could be certain, he answered, “Because I live my life as if every day were my last and every decision the last one I would make. My mind then moved to another, very different, and much older story. As I remember it, one day Saint Francis of Assisi was working in his garden when his followers approached him and posed a question. They asked, “If you knew that this was going to be the last day of your life, how would you spend it?” Francis, the story goes, did not hesitate in answering. “First,” he said, “I would finish tending the garden.”
To be honest, I seem to spend much of my time mulling over past mistakes or fretting about future possibilities that may never happen. Too often, that robs the present of its spontaneity. My older brother Nick once wrote in my grade school graduation book, “Tomorrow is for dreamers, yesterday is for the birds, today counts!” I find myself challenging those words with other phrases like, “Those who do not learn from past mistakes are doomed to repeat them,” and, “The future belongs to those who dream.” However, my brother Nick is not a shallow thinker. Regarding the past, I recall another phrase, “We cannot hope to discover new horizons unless we are willing to loose sight of the shore.” In order to discover what we can become, we can learn from our past mistakes, but we must forgive our failures and let go of our regrets. And while we can accomplish nothing without planning for our futures, when we let those plans consume us, we rob ourselves of the present, and the present is all we really have. In the movie, “Dead Poets Society,” English teacher Robin Williams advises that his students, “Carpi-diem”: seize the day. Perhaps, if we could remind ourselves that today, this day, could be our last, we too could seize the day.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.