“Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of habit” (W. Somerset Maugham).
SOME PEOPLE ENGAGE IN THE ART OF LIVING, WHILE OTHERS MERELY EXIST. To live, we must go out and meet life, experiencing it actively, deeply, and gratefully. We must taste the tang of life — in all of its sweetness and bitterness. But many of us are reluctant to do that. We adhere to our daily caloric intake even on Thanksgiving. We never stay up late or sleep in. We never splurge on a gift for a loved one. With unmitigated moderation, we simply . . . exist.
Since time immemorial, people have thought and written about “the art of living.” It would be a step in the right direction if some of us would acknowledge that life is, indeed, an art rather than a science.
Sydney J. Harris said, “The art of living consists in knowing which impulses to obey and which must be made to obey.” It takes wisdom to discern when we may follow our desires, but the “wisdom” that says our desires should never be followed is mere foolishness.
In a similar vein, Havelock Ellis said, “All the art of living lies in a mingling of letting go and holding on.” In this broken world, many goodbyes have to be said. Yet while some good things are still ours to enjoy, we should not fail to hold on to them with heartfelt joy.
One thing is certain: whatever we are to make of life, it must be made today — and it must be made out of the materials already at hand. It does no good to postpone real living until later on or until we acquire some material possession or privilege that we think will make us happy. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
So are you living or just existing? If you’re not living, I recommend that you start doing so. Decide to do more than take up space on the surface of the planet. Live it up! You will need to stay within the boundaries of morality and justice, of course, but within those limits, you shouldn’t hesitate to “walk in the ways of your heart” (Book of Ecclesiastes). So grasp the cup of life with both hands, turn it up, and drain it to the dregs. You may still be in this world a long time from now or you may depart from it today. But whether your stay is long or short, while you’re in this world, be truly present here.
“Presence is more than just being there” (Malcolm S. Forbes).