Living Boldly: What Do I Do With the Time That Is Given to Me?
Standing on the edge of a rock, I gazed at the waterfall, letting the roar of the water sink into my heart. The scent of pine mingled with the sunscreen I had liberally applied to my skin before embarking on a hike that afternoon. I marveled at the grandeur before me, and wondered how could I ever do anything that would leave a mark in a world as expansive as this? How can I adequately respond to the world and trust that through my smallness, great things can happen?
For me, the answer to these questions is death. Or, more accurately, the answer is to realize my own mortality, and desire to embrace my smallness and live life as a constant adventure. It means daring to dream, to hope, to desire to impact a world bigger than myself, and ultimately to trust that a simple life lived boldly for the sake of others means far more than anything I can imagine.
So how can we live boldly when, “Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints. It takes and it takes and it takes, and we keep living anyway. We rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes…” (Miranda, 2015, track 13)? Life does not lend itself to living boldly, spontaneously, and courageously, and yet I believe that life means more when striving to live with no regrets.
In a short reflection about preparing for death, Fr. Mike Schmitz (2016) said that living fully means operating in such a way that you constantly prepare for death. I don’t believe this translates into the modern understanding of “YOLO”, but it does lend credence to “carpe diem.” The difference between these sayings is subtle, but I think it boils down to two things: being unafraid to make decisions because you trust God with the outcome, and remembering that sacrificial love for others means far more than fulfilling selfish desires.
Choices challenge us. Deciding on a course of action often means sacrificing another option. As Gandalf said in The Fellowship of the Ring (1955), “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us” (p. 76). Yet these decisions manifest themselves in what we choose to embrace. Renowned philosopher, Peter Kreeft wrote in his book The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (2005):
“We all, like Frodo, carry a Quest, a Task: our daily duties. They come to us, not from us. We are free only to accept or refuse our task – and, implicitly, our Taskmaster… We are all Hobbits who love our Shire, our security, our creature comforts, whether these are pipeweed, mushrooms, five meals a day, and local gossip, or Starbucks coffees, recreational sex, and politics. But something, some authority not named in The Lord of the Rings (but named in The Silmarilion), has decreed that a Quest should interrupt this delightful Epicurean garden and send us on an odyssey. We are plucked out of our Hobbit holes and plunked down onto a Road. That gives us our fundamental choice between obedience and disobedience. And if life is war, obedience is essential (pp. 201-202).”
Life boils down to the choices we make and how we face the quest placed before us. We are forced to face the future and make a choice, even if that means not acting on anything at all. I believe that the choices we make can change the course of the future, both for ourselves and for others.
I believe that living for others means willingly accepting that my dreams and hopes mean more when I include others in them. In my littleness, my dreams can come true. As St. Therese of Liseux (1996) said, “God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.” Embracing life to the fullest also means welcoming others to join me, to encourage, comfort, laugh, cry, and love all those around me. I believe I have the desires I do for a reason, and I know that acknowledging my mortality has helped me face my fear of adventure, and greet it with open arms.
Life is a big, beautiful mess that often doesn’t have an obvious path or plan. It’s filled with joy, suffering, monotony, exhilaration, and everything in between. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet” (Montgomery, 1908, p. 176)? As I stood gazing over the waterfall, I knew that an individual, standing on the edge of a cliff and staring into the expanse of the world, I embraced my quest to follow my dreams, and to live a life I will not regret; to live life as a preparation for death.
Kreeft, P. (2005). The philosophy of Tolkien: The worldview behind The Lord of the Rings. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press.
Lisieux, T. (1996). Story of a soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux (3rd ed.). Peabody, MA: C.S. Publications
Miranda, L.M. (2015). Wait for it [Recorded by Odom, L.]. New York, NY: Atlantic Records.
Montgomery, L.M. (1908). Anne of green gables. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
Schmitz, M. [Ascension Presents]. (2016, April 1). Prepare to Die! [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfGJ-9AwEZ0
Tolkien, J.R.R. (1955). The lord of the rings: The fellowship of the ring. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
By Emily Pohl
(Copyright, July 13, 2016)