Monday, November 22, 2004

Living Life on Tippy Toes

Life is short. This old cliche became a cliche because it is so true. Nevertheless, we ignore this piece of wisdom, and live our daily lives as if we’re immortal. That is, until we confront a tragedy. Then, we are shocked by how absurdly fragile life really is, and realize that time flies by ridiculously fast. All of a sudden, we’re no longer immortal, and life is much too short. And we’re left wondering how to deal with our lilliputian lifespans.

Well, if you observe some of the shortest people, children, you’ll see they have a fascinating way of coping with shortness: they stand on tippy toes. If they have to look over a taller person, they stand on tippy toes. If they have to reach something up high, they stand on tippy toes. They seem to be forever standing on tippy toes, trying to be just a few inches taller.

Perhaps what we need to do is live life on tippy toes. Yes, life might be short, but we can always find ways to stretch it a bit further.

One way to live life on tippy toes is by grabbing hold of peak moments. To a clock, all time is absolutely equal: each second has a uniform length. However, for humans, all minutes are not created equal. There are many mediocre minutes and some sensational seconds. For us, a minute spent standing under the chuppah waiting to get married is far more important than a minute spent standing in line at the grocery. One experience is forgettable; the other is a peak moment. Life stretches just a bit longer when we seek out and savour our peak moments.

Exceptional events like weddings and Bar Mitzvahs are clearly peak moments. But there are other peak moments, less obvious but no less remarkable. Like volunteering at a soup kitchen. Tucking a child into bed. Taking your mom out for lunch. Going for coffee with your spouse. Having Friday night dinner with friends. We overlook the little peak moments, and often do more "important" things, like work. But no one ever sat on their deathbed wondering why they didn’t spend more time working. But I can attest, people do sit on their deathbeds wondering where the pitter patter of little feet have gone, and why they let their loving spouses slip away. They wonder why their lives seem so short, having neglected to live on tippy toes.

The Midrash says at the end of holiday season, God asked the Jews to stay for one more day of rejoicing. After a wonderful week of festivities, God simply can’t let go of a peak moment, and needs one more day of celebration. I believe this is meant as a model for all of us; we must try to hang on to our peak moments, stretching time a bit further. We do this because life is short, and we must live on tippy toes.

No comments: