On a nice day in May, as I lay in my zero gravity chair in the backyard, looking up, examining cloud patterns etched in a blue dome, its bottoms fringed round with the yellow-green of spring trees—it occurred to me that however much time this reverie took, I could spare.
Growing older, I become more patient. With each passing year—each step closer to the chasm that ends this life and drops us into the next—I am less concerned about running out of time.
When young I was often impatient.
Now, my impatience is all used up.
In the midst of the storm and strife, the middle years of life, there are things to accomplish that seem time-bound. We must prove ourselves in some minor skill before we can move up the ladder. We must pile up enough gold to send our kids to college by the time they are ready to go. We need to stretch and to strive, to scrimp and to save, to squirrel away assets against the future.
All that is behind me. Now, everything worth doing seems to want all my attention. It is less vital to finish than to engage.
Kipling sketched a remarkable image of the afterlife—only I suppose it applies to my here and now:
When Earth's last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried, When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died, We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it—lie down for an aeon or two, Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew. And those that were good shall be happy: they shall sit in a golden chair; They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comet’s hair. They shall find real saints to draw from—Magdalene, Peter, and Paul; They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all! And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame; And no one will work for the money, and no one will work for the fame, But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star, Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They are!
We who have lived beyond the hustle and urgency of mid-life know a secret we could tell to those still trapped in that gosh-awful hurly-burly. But it’s no good; they would not listen.
Or rather, they would not hear. Even gifted with the best intentions and the strongest focus, they could not hear. You don’t have ears for that secret until it becomes your own.
It is the whisper of Eternity. It says: Go. Do. Enjoy. Be. You have all the time there is.
Larry F. Sommers
Your New Favorite Writer