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As Time’s Winged Chariot Hurries Near, How do we Make the Most of Every Moment?

“But at my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”  That line from Andrew Marvell’s poem, “To His Coy Mistress,” has stuck in my mind ever since I first read it in the 12th. grade in 1968.

Time’s winged chariot has gained some 46 years on me since then, and I still haven’t figured out what to do about it.

We all know it’s best to make the most of every moment, every day, every week, every year.  We all know time’s winged chariot bears down upon us, and will ultimately overtake us.  But the question that’s gnawed at me ever since I first read that line, the question that’s made the line stick with me and recur in my mind like the sometime tolling of a tower bell, is How?  How do we make the most of every moment?

Given that we have so many, many mundane tasks that we simply must perform, from brushing teeth to making bed to filling out forms to get car inspected to going to dry cleaner to paying bills to gassing up car to grocery shopping to clearing the table to shopping for shoes to looking for lost keys to applying for a mortgage to, well you get it, so very, very much, how in the world are we supposed to make the most of those moments?

How do I take into account time’s winged chariot hurrying near while I’m brushing my teeth?  Do I brush all the harder?  Do I say to myself, Be grateful, Ned, that you are alive enough to brush your teeth, the day will come when you can’t?  Or do I vary my tooth-brushing technique to remind me that each moment is unique and irreplaceable?  Or do I try to meditate while brushing, to make more of the experience of the moment?

What I am getting at is how difficult on a practical level it can be to relish every precious moment of life, even though we know every moment is precious.  The plain fact is that much of life is, perforce, humdrum.

But perhaps the hum of that drum, the hum of the ordinary, sets off the rest, the special moments, and makes them special.  Otherwise they would be humdrum, too.

What I tell myself, what I suggest to you all, is not that time’s winged chariot is hurrying near, even though I know it is, but rather life’s eternal wonder is always at hand, ready to be apprehended at any time, even when brushing teeth.

It is a wonder, this mysterious gift called life.  We can best let it enchant us, when and how it will.

Ned Hallowell 3/11/14

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