Sunday, July 17, 2011

Young Cicero's Arrival

It was early summer in the year 96 BC. A ten-year-old child in Arpinum was looking for something his father told him to recover from the basement of their villa. Marcus Tully Cicero didn’t know what he was meant to be searching for. The elder Cicero had actually only sent him there in the hope he might remain unseen by soldiers sent to punish the family. It was the custom for no one, however young or old, to be spared.

Marcus pulled away a large red cloth, uncovering a gleaming mirror. He saw in the reflection a ladder which did not correspond to anything in the space around him. He could hear his father shouting defiantly above. Swords were drawn. Arpinum was guarded by its own loyal troops. Weapons clashed. The scent of death drifted down. One of his father’s trusted servants cried out, “Marcus, go now!”

Into the mirror he ran. Behind him, the basement of his home vanished to be replaced by the image of the dimly lit cavern he now found himself in. Not far ahead of him was the ladder he noticed before. As fast as he could in near darkness he climbed up it until it led him to a bright opening. The sun was overhead, but the air was cool. Cautiously he stepped away from the hole in the ground he had emerged from.

A red squirrel ran up to him and passed him what appeared to be a walnut. It gestured to him to break it open, and he complied by cracking it against a black stone on the ground. In it, he found a crumpled note that simply said, “It’s not too late, if you hurry.” He looked up but the squirrel was nowhere to be found. His quest through the looking glass had begun.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Till Death Do Us Start

We daydream, we look out the window, we procrastinate, we do what we know is a waste of time, and so we continue until the ultimate deadline comes into view. It could be us, or someone we deeply care about, and the emergence of the end of the road blows away our self-delusion. This is it, the realisation finally dawns. We must do what really matters with the time left.

But why throw away the best part of one’s life until it’s too late? Why not make each day one we have to look back on with satisfaction? The most important things are not the ones to be left to the indefinite future, but should be prioritised for the present. Today, what must I achieve before my consciousness extinguishes at the onset of sleep tonight? Have you answered the question yet, and are you acting on it?

It’s curious how so many people who get a narrow escape with a misdiagnosis or a false report slip straight back into a habit of squandering life’s precious opportunities. How much time has each of us really got left to love, be kind, create, complete, protest, craft, nurture potential, overcome injustice? It’s unforgivable to forgo the hours, days to lead a meaningful life because one has once again forgotten the sand is always running out of the hourglass.

Perhaps some of us need a constant reminder. A chess set for those with a taste for Bergmanesque culture; a Brad Pitt poster for those who know the meaning of inescapable blankness having watched him portray death in ‘Meet Joe Black’; a listen to the Righteous Brothers’ ‘Unchained Melody'; or another viewing of Woody Allen’s ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’. Whatever it is, don’t wait for death before you embrace your life.