"The greater part of human activity is designed to make permanent those experiences and joys which are only lovable because they are changing."
Impermanence is a beautiful thing. Actually, more accurately said, Impermanence is that which makes every thing beautiful. All of the joys of the human experience owe their intensity to the ever-receding state of existence. Everything we love, we love all the more when we realize that both it and ourselves will not be here for very long.
Friends. Family. Lovers. Flowers. Summer Days. Our Body. Our Mind.
All that is most meaningful is so because it will not be here for long. Prior to visiting my parents, I consciously meditate on the fact that they will not be here forever. There will be a time when I CAN’T visit them, and that is why I find so much joy in the act of doing so.
Every time I train Jiu Jitsu, I do so under the presupposition that there will come a day when I am no longer physically able to train. Every time I go for a run, especially when injuries pile up and I feel the reminders of my frailty, I do so with the understanding that someday I will not be able to run.
Children are beautiful because they are ever-growing and fast becoming non-children. Every parent loves an adorable seven year old, but I’d imagine their feelings would alter should their child remain 7 forever.
Puppies are cute because they will some day be dogs. Summer days are beautiful because we have rainy springs. Wealth is defined by poverty. Health by sickness. Happiness by misery.
All of the enjoyable states of human existence are enjoyable because they will not last. It is impermanence that gives rise to our appreciation of all things.
Up to this point we have talked about the impermanence of all things, but what of ourselves?
The only reason we get out of bed in the morning is because there is a timer counting down to the end of our lives. We rise to meet each day because there will come a time when the day will rise without us. If we were going to live forever, we would not strive toward growth and human accomplishments. Were I to live throughout all the ages, I would not have sat down to write this entry. I would have saved it for a century or two from now. There would be no urgency.
All we have accomplished has been done through the lens of our temporary state. All great human achievements were a means of rebelling against the totality of mortality. We all hope that we will do something with our lives that will outlive our own life. All strive toward this goal and some achieve it.
But no human accomplishment will stand the test of time. Inevitably all will be wiped from the annals of history. This understanding will bring with it shades of disappointment and existential frustration, but if one continues to persist through the immediate and into the depth of this idea, the only experience left is that of freedom.
If nothing lasts then everything has meaning. If everything dies that means we actually live.
No matter what we do in this life it will all inevitably end in the same way. I find this incredibly empowering. We are free to strive, and free to “fail.” If it all ends anyway, then why not strive toward something greater while you are here.
Spark Your Growth
I liken this to a child on the beach as the tide comes in. We are all that child building a sand castle on the waters edge. Though we cannot leave the beach nor travel beyond the waters reach, we are equipped with the faculties to build something beautiful with the sand and time allotted to us. Either way the tide will come in and wipe the slate clean, but what we do before that is a choice. If we cannot stop the ever-approaching tide, and no matter what we do the remnants of our efforts will be cleansed, we might as well build the best castle we can. Put your head down and work. Meticulously create the castle you see in your mind. Using effort and creativity, build something that was not here before.
As you rest upon completing your masterpiece, watch as the setting sun illuminates your vision made real. Watch as the tide comes in to wash away your work. And as the tide washes away your castle, do not curse it. Do not complain. The ocean is simply doing what oceans do.
Take solace in the fact that the only reason you built that castle was BECAUSE it would someday get washed away. I can think of no more meaningful endeavor than to build something you know will be torn down.