Sing each song as if it is your last
In Walk the Line, the recent biographical film concerning the stormy relationship between Johnny and June Carter Cash, the character of Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is busily trying to sell a music producer on his talent. It is still quite early in an as-yet undefined career.Cashs iconic, oily warble and strut have not yet shown up in his vocals, and his lyrics are those of an automaton someone cautiously trying to find a way to score big on old gospel standards without risking anything artistically in the process. His backup men may as well be playing wet noodles.So he auditions and, at first, miserably falters. Then the owner of the record company gives him some advice we all could benefit from hearing. He tells Cash to imagine that he has just been struck by a truck and now lies dying with only a few minutes remaining in which to sing one last song. What, then, would he sing?Cash hesitates, and for a moment his eyes catch fire. Then he lets fly with an original tune: I hear a train a-comin / its rolling round the bend / and I aint seen the sunshine / since I dont know when / Im stuck in Folsom PrisonYou may argue, and rightly, about whether Cashs life provides us with the gold moral standard of behavior. Yet there is something about this one scene that consistently gets to the heart of the matter of how he lived. It wasnt only Folsom Prison knocking around in his head that he needed to get out in his fantasy about laying on the side of the road near death. Rather, he must surely have taken the record executives advice and decided to live out the rest of his days as though every minute were his last as though the words of any song he happened to be singing would be the final thing to ever cross his lips.Make a similar decision for yourself, and instantly your life has more meaning or, possibly for the first time ever, has any meaning at all.Many religions, faith systems and philosophies are pushing us to make such a decision. Buddhism ingrains it through meditation and the practice of mindfulness. Judaism does it by promoting an intense realization of the worlds suffering. Hinduism imparts it in the notions of healthy detachment and lucidity. The Muslim tradition brings it to consciousness through consistent discipline.In my own tradition of Christianity it remains a constant theme of Scripture and is well encapsulated in the words of Jesus preserved in the Gospel According to Luke: No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. There is, for Christians, a beautiful paradox expressed by two common phrases: Live every day as if it were your last, (death); and Today is the first day of the rest of your life (resurrection). Neither one cancels the other out; rather, the one makes the other a stronger truth.The secret to happiness in life is twofold. First and lets hope this doesnt sound too morbid admit the fact that death is not only a possibility but a fact; that were all in some state of a terminal condition. Second, lets also live now, in this moment, which is the only place where reality ever happens.The Rev. Torey Lightcap is Priest-In-Charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs, (www.saint-barnabas.info). Rev. Lightcap and his wife Jacqueline moved to Glenwood with son Gabriel last summer after serving St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church in Conroe, Texas. They are expecting another child in August.
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