Happiness in impermanence

David Whyte’s poem, What To Remember When Waking, opens with the following verse:

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world

where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

When we wake up, we don’t know what the day will bring us. Yet it’s that first hardly noticed moment that is the sacredness of life, a sacredness which we lose when we make plans that deny that things are always changing. We close the moment, the reality, of what it means to be human, to be alive.

Today, as I watch raindrops fall down my window, I’m thinking about how hard it has been to accept the impermanence of life – what Marina Popova has described as ‘that perennial heartbreak of beholding the absurdity of our longing for permanence in a universe of constant change’.

Alan Lightman, in writing about our yearning for immortality, and why we long for impermanence, reflects that:

To my mind, it is one of the profound contradictions of human existence that we long for immortality, indeed fervently believe that something must be unchanging and permanent, when all of the evidence in nature argues against us. I certainly have such a longing. Either I am being emotional and vain in my wish for eternal life… or there is some realm of immortality that exists outside nature…

There have been many days where I have longed for my sister. And there will be many more ahead. But she wanted us to be happy, and it would be a dishonour to her memory if I allowed moments of happiness to pass me by.

Victoria Alexander writes that:

It takes strength, fortitude and insight to let go… Each moment disappears as soon as we’re aware of it. The next moment emerges as the precious one vanishes, all within the infinitely tiny duration of ‘now’. Accept, simply let things be, don’t long for anything, be neutral and natural.

I think it’s too hard not to long for anything. But in accepting that we are not immortal, we understand how quickly a moment can disappear if we are not in the ‘now’.

Everything is precious. That is also the natural scheme of things.

Stephanie Lombardi