OK, so it may be a cliché, but don’t they tend to exist for a reason? Mate, we absolutely have to measure time with half an eye on an awareness of our mortality.
Yesterday I went to the funeral of a dear family friend. I went with my one surviving brother and my widowed dad, along with some ghosts. Two out of the three of us wore jaunty hats, and every piece of my outfit was chosen with care: my late mum’s jacket, my late grandmother’s brooch, a belt given to me by my late brother when I was 14 (it’s my most prized physical possession on the earth!), my stompiest boots.
In the car on the way to the airport, Radiohead. The beautiful song “Videotape” was made all the more poignant by my destination. The ceremony was held at a beautiful location, and this South Islander definitely took a moment to buzz out on the sound of tui from surrounding bush.
While there, I witnessed raw emotion. Respect, regret, sadness, loss, gratitude. And Love. Lots of love.
The music at that service was exquisite, and among our discussions my brother and I kept leaning on music to make sense of pain, grief. loss. How to explain my weirdly peaceful feelings about death? I’ll let Sufjan Stevens do that. Yes! He shared one of his wife’s favourite songs with a very similar message, albeit slightly more cheerily presented. Thanks Flaming Lips. Buddhists will tell you to meditate in a cemetery. Why? Cos an acceptance of mortality will set you free to be truly in the present.
“Maybe time running out is a gift” … so sings Jason Isbell in the beautiful song If We Were Vampires, with his wife right there singing too. (How do they not cry?)
So yeah, music helps, and acceptance of death helps. But none of that changes the notion that time DOES run out, and if we are to see it as a gift we have got to be deliberate about how we spend it. We must make it time well spent.
Which is why it was extra cosmic that the podcast I was listening to on my drive home from the airport – episode 4 of Your Undivided Attention – used the deathbed metaphor as it made friends with the concept of YouTube at the end of a pretty damning exploration of their ways and methods (*irony acknowledged: I used their links repeatedly in the sharing of my musical montage. Please: SWITCH OFF AUTOPLAY and DO NOT REACT TO RECOMMENDATIONS!)
The podcast hosts were wise enough to contrast the way a person might feel on their deathbed reflecting on the time they spent on YouTube learning to play an instrument (well spent) … but lost hours spent watching conspiracy videos, being led to anti vax nonsense or otherwise not noticing how we are being manipulated by asymmetric algorithms that “tilt the entire ant colony toward crazytown” … those are not hours we will reflect kindly upon as we warm our deathbeds.
I won’t regret a moment of my time doing Yoga with Adriene, I won’t regret watching this amazing conception to birth video over and over. I won’t regret the time I have taken over the past decade to play on this website.
I won’t regret time spent with family and friends. (Well, hardly any of it has been regretful, thus far.) I won’t regret any of the sunsets or sunrises I’ve witnessed.
And I won’t regret a second that I got to spend with the dear man we farewelled yesterday. What a privilege. Arohanui. x