Walking down the street, snow teasing the air with tiny, dry flakes dancing between people, I reflect on the kindness I have received from strangers in the last week. And while wondering why not more people are as kind as that, the sentence comes into my head: you have to be the change you want to see. I know this is a famous quotation, but right now it feels new and exciting to me and it seems like I have never appreciated the meaning of this sentence before: you have to be the change you want to see.
I remember that often I don’t smile at people I pass by. I remember that often I don’t have a greeting for my neighbours, that although I say thank you and hello and goodbye to shopkeepers and to people behind counters, I could be so much warmer. I could try to make them smile more often. I could give so much more. Most people could. Yet most people are not my business, nor do I have any power or influence over, or responsibility for them. But I do have for and over myself. I have to be the change I want to see.
As these shiny thoughts sparkle in my mind and I muse on what it could be like if it were possible to live like that, and wondering if I will ever be able to, another truth comes to me: the moment to live like that is now. This is the moment. As the last moment was. As the next one will be. Every moment counts and every breath, every step, every decision counts. Each one contains an infinity of possibilities.
Even while thinking this, I am aware that written down, this would sound like kitsch. That if I were to tell someone what I’m thinking right now, they would accuse me of quoting the wisdom of small, flower-printed books that abound in random selections of inspirational quotations taken out of their context. I am aware of it. This, however, goes deeper. It goes all the way down to the pit of my stomach, to the fibres of my bones, to the soles of my feet. It sets me vibrating and makes me feel awake.
I know I have felt this before, this clarity, this awakeness. Every time it happens I swear to myself that this time, it really will stay. The sharp contours of this knowledge will not blunt. The depth of understanding will not slowly become swamped with day-to-day silt, with murky small talk, with trivial mud. This time I will remember. This time I will act on the awareness of my mortality.
And every time it feels like a blinding revelation again. That every breath is precious. That every encounter is a chance. That life is beautiful and terrible and abounding with choice and beauty and happiness if only I can open my eyes and look at what is really there.