Tag Archives: life is short

Thoughts for Thursdays – Fill in the blank & Steve Jobs

While rubbing on my suncream just now, I thought simultaneously of two things: the song, ‘wear sunscreen’, and a quote by Steve Jobs. This was the quote:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I actually misremembered the quote as saying something like “Life is too short to waste it by living someone else’s life, or by their dogma”. And since I had misremembered it as “life is too short”, that got me to thinking about what else life is too short for.

:: Life is too short to potentially shorten it by smoking. Or driving without a seat-belt. Or not exercising. Or eating poorly.

:: Life is too short to waste time and energy on the small, inconsequential mistakes and foibles we all face.

:: Life is too short to restrain yourself from saying ‘I love you’ to anyone, and everyone, that you love.

:: Life is too short to live by someone else’s dogma.

:: Life is too short to pass up on happiness wherever you find it.

:: Life is too short to put off those things that you know in your heart are really important to you.

:: Life is too short to spend all your best hours working a job you hate.

Maybe you’d like to take a minute now to re-align yourself with…yourself. Maybe you’d like to take a minute to take a deep breath, and listen to what it is you want for your life, being careful to notice if some of the desires that creep in are coming from someone, or something, outside of yourself. Maybe you’d like to take a moment to fill in the blank:

My life is too short to ______________________________.

Finally, my Thursday gift to you: Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford: “How to Live before you Die”. It’s where I found the quote above. And it is worth 15 minutes of your short life. Believe me.


Leave a comment

Filed under Thoughts for Thursdays, Treasure Chest

Part Two of ‘This Moment’: Graffiti and Mary Oliver

[Life is short, and we have only the time that we are given, nothing more. Never more. Remembering that in our brief lives each moment of joy will pass, like each moment of pain, is the story of ‘Part Two’, which I will be adding soon]

Part Two

I can’t even begin to tell you how short your life is.

When I was in my teens, I came across a quote that used to make me giggle. I shared it like a joke with my friends and family. “Don’t tell me life is short. It’s the longest fucking thing you’ll ever do”. While I am still amused, I no longer believe it. I no longer have the ignorance and bliss that allows us, as innocent youth, to believe this: that what we have, that family, that love, that all those we hold dear, are forever.

Because really, isn’t that what we all thought? Wasn’t that exactly the falsehood that we believed so ferociously?

Until. Until we lost something irreplaceable. Until we were blindsided by sudden loss and the unbelievable heartbreak of really, truly, finally having to say goodbye.

Before Christmas I lost someone I love dearly. A few months before he passed, he took a trip down to Atlanta to say goodbye to his family there. When he got back home, he told me about how on every other trip he had always left by saying, Au revoir. This means, quite literally, ‘to the next seeing’. On this trip, however, he said Adieu. To god.

We don’t get a lot of time. Often we don’t even get the short amount that we assume we’ll get. Our bodies, these days, can last so much longer than any of our ancestors’. Most among us assume we’ll hit seventy, eighty, perhaps ninety. We have doubled, and more, our life expectancy. “It’s the longest thing you’ll ever fucking do“.

Expectancy. We expect to get the whole package. We expect.

And yet…and yet you could be dying as you read this, and not even know it. Inside of you could already be growing the cells that could turn into cancer. You could be deciding to take that job offer that could lead to getting into that taxi that could lead to being in that car crash.


We don’t get a lot of time.

This too shall pass.

Although you might now be wanting to turn away from the perception of morbidity you think I’m presenting you, I’m going to ask you to stay. Because rather than weeping over death, this is an affirmation of life. We don’t get a lot of time, so use it. USE IT. Hold on to your life with both hands; respect your body and care for it because it is keeping you alive. Did you hear me just then? Your body is keeping you alive, and it is fragile. Respect and care for it.

Those small moments of joy, whatever they are for you: revel in them. Grow. Gift the world with your joy and your accomplishments. Do what you know in your heart to be right.  You are getting so much less time that you expect. Work hard to know what makes you happy; who is important; where you need to be. Your goodbyes are coming so much sooner than you believe. Rush into love, wherever you find it, in each and every one of its myriad of forms. When you find it, let it set you on fire. Blaze with it. This is not a dress rehearsal, and you will never, ever be here again. Be here now. Now is all you’re ever going to get.

And ask yourself:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

(The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver)

J.M. Barclay

Leave a comment

Filed under Lessons in Catastrophe, Lightning Bolts, Musings, Thoughts for Thursdays

The King’s Challenge – Part One of This Moment

This post has been on my mind for a long, long time. Let us start with a story. Have you heard the one about the proud king?

nce upon a time, there was a proud king who wished to show that he was more intelligent than all of his ministers, and all of his subjects. He decided that he would prove his intelligence by setting an impossible task. So one day, he called his court together, assembled all his most trusted ministers and greatest scholars, and announced his task:

“I charge any of you to come up with the answer to my challenge: bring me an inscription that is true in every moment of life; that will make the joyful man sorrowful, and the sorrowful man joyful”.

At first, the challenge caused a flurry of activity. The courtiers conspired and the ministers mulled over what the answer to the riddle might be. The oil burned long in the midnight lamps of the king’s subjects as they all raced to be the first to answer the challenge, while the king revelled in the knowledge that he was so brilliant as to have created an impossible riddle.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and every time a traveller appeared at court, the king issued his challenge. But as the months neared becoming a year, still no one could best the king’s riddle.

Exactly one year after the king had announced his riddle, a old traveller appeared at court. His clothes were ragged and his feet calloused from long miles of walking. He had a long beard that seemed as if it might not have been washed in months, and frail hands that grasped a carved walking stick. As he bowed down before the king, the king asked, “Do you think you can answer the riddle that I devised, that none of my court nor any of my ministers nor a single scholar nor any other traveller has solved?”. The traveller replied humbly, “I can only try, your Highness”. So the king told him the riddle: “Bring me an inscription that is true in every moment of life; that will make the joyful man sorrowful, and the sorrowful man joyful”. So the old traveller bowed down again, and left the court to ponder the riddle.

Later that evening, as the king was preparing a feast to celebrate the one-year mark of his challenge, and to revel in all his wealth and stature and intelligence, the traveller returned to court. He walked up to the king, bowed his head low, and then passed to the king a small piece of paper.

The king’s subjects and his ministers and his scholars all watched as the king unfolded the scrap of paper, and they all saw as his normal, self-satisfied smile turn first to confusion, and then to a frown. For on the little piece of paper were inscribed the words:

this too shall pass


I heard a version of this story a long, long time ago, and since then it has filtered in and out of my mind many times, but usually at moments of great pain or loss. Over the past year or so I have found myself returning to this story frequently as I struggled with certain kinds of ‘rights of passage’ that come with growing up: your body failing, the death of loved ones, the frustration of life’s foibles, the difficulty of truly closing the space between you and another human being.

Despite my initial inclination to turn to this phrase in the most darkest hours, I have come also this year to appreciate its duality: it is as true in times of joy as in times of sorrow. Although the king’s challenge suggests that the phrase will turn the joyful man sorrowful, I have come to realize the beautiful, positive joy of the phrase even when it is read in times of joy. To me, the phrase is not the comfort that pain will pass and sorrow that joy will too, but rather the comfort that pain will pass and the most powerful reminder that we must hold on and immerse ourselves as fully as we are able in times of joy…for they, too, will pass. It is a reminder that each moment of joy is as precious as it is surely fleeting. From this point of view it isn’t sorrowful, but hopeful: it encourages us to soar in those moments of joy.

Life is short, and we have only the time that we are given, nothing more. Never more. Remembering that in our brief lives each moment of joy will pass, like each moment of pain, is the story of ‘Part Two’, which I will be adding soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lessons in Catastrophe, Lightning Bolts, Treasure Chest