I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. …I guess I could be really pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain. And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.

Those are the last words in American Beauty, spoken by Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey. If you’ve not seen it, I thoroughly recommend it (screenplay by Alan Ball – he of Six Feet Under – and a truly fantastic score by Thomas Newman).

I’m holding up these lines for a couple of reasons. This is one of my favourite films, and by being on telly last night, it reminded me how great I think it is. But it particularly chimes deep for me in the context of this blog, where we’ve spoken a lot about time, about flow, about life’s transitory nature.

And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain. And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.

This is repetition for any regular readers, but Walter Pater (who taught Oscar WIlde at Oxford) urged us to live life as though we “burn with a hard, gem-like flame”. He was advocating a zen approach; to live in the moment, not the future or past. He lost his reputation as a result; it ruined his life because his enemies chose to read his words as an unholy encouragement to the aesthetes, the hedonists (Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray demonstrates the Victorian fear of  that kind of hedonism). Burnham – after death – talks about perceiving the world just like that. And in a related imping theme, of being greatful for “every single moment” of his life – stupid and little though he says it is.

‘Cos we are just the sum of our moments, those split-second choices, and each is equally valuable (we do not have to be linear!). Sartre and that lot, especially Kierkegaard (the existentialist posse) said that man (I suspect they mean women, too) can only be known  / defined by his actions – not his thoughts. That to be of merit, you have to act, deliver impact, turn the thought into deed. I’m not sure I always agree: to be defined solely by externalities?

Anyway, on that wee note of deliberation, please go and have a wild, action or thought-filled weekend, whichever takes your fancy. And enjoy every moment.

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