Saturday, January 23, 2010

Life, or Something Like It

There comes a moment when, suddenly, you realise life is actually happening. To you, right now, all around you. Some shard of opaque glass falls, all of a sudden, from before your eyes and you blink in surprise, blinded by the brightness of this shock: that the ephemeral concept you have imagined to be life, that you have been chasing since you can remember being able to remember anything - you've had it all this time, in your palms. You've been chasing something you already have.  

You recognise in the flash of a moment, maybe with the jolt of a bus or with a clap of thunder or with the unexpected coldness of a summer downpour, that life is not just something one reads about in books. It is visible, tangible, extant in the collage of your every-day experiences. Its very essence is in the minutiae of the quotidian, exactly where a person used to book-learning might least expect to find it.

I had a moment like this last week. I was out to lunch with two friends. We spoke of novels we liked, plays we had seen, places we had traveled. We deliberated over the variety of dishes on the menu, wondered how fresh was the Barramundi we had ordered, sipped wine from Italy, champagne from France. The glass doors of the restaurant opened onto a deck flooded in sunlight and summer breezes, and as the afternoon wore on the chairs outside gradually filled with young people dressed for evening.

And, sitting there, listening to my friends talk, listening to the chatter from other diners, watching the man across the way follow with his eyes the young blonde waitress while he pretended to listen to his companion, I realised that this, right here, is it.

And it needn't have been a summer day and French champagne. 

I have felt that clarity on other occasions, walking down grey city streets crowded with people weary from the day, or sitting at work looking out at a rain-swept sky: this is it. The only one you get.

Life is happening all around us, to us, all of the time. 


  1. Don't sweat the man watching the blonde. A cat watches lots of birds, but the cat usually needs to kill only one to satisfy its hunger.

    And I don't trust clarity. It causes all sorts of trouble. It is the enemy of balance, of the golden mean. In my life clarity goes hand in hand with a bi-polar high.

    Lennon sang that life, "is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Is there a difference between living and planning? Maybe planning is life lived at one remove from reality.

  2. Ah, SB, how did you know I was sweating the man watching the blonde. And I'm not so sure my cat needs only one bird. He's a young, hungry cat.