The rabbis spoke of how “our lives are too short.” This wisdom was not offered with regret or with a gaze backwards, forlorn over what might have been. Rather, this was a humble word releasing our anxieties that continually mount alongside the ever-abounding recognition that our possibilities are endless, that all we wish for ourselves could not possibly come true. Not in our life. Not in a hundred lives. Our lives are too short for that kind of burdensome, grandiose vision. Rest easy, the rabbis would say. Praise to the Master of the Universe, our lives are simply too short.
I find solace in these words. We have so many options. So many places we can be and so many works we could do. It’s a grace to be time-bound, to have limitations, to know from the get-go that there will be much we cannot finish, much we’ll simply be unable to do.
Friends of ours have a daughter who is easily over-stimulated, a spiral effect that leads to massive meltdowns (a scenario we are familiar with in our own brood). This episode was replayed for them recently on a trip to the beach, but on their last day they discovered how much she loved to be buried, neck-deep in the sand with a towel covering her head. Closed off from the world, unable to budge and barely able to wiggle her toes, she was transformed. Her anxieties ebbed as she was closed in, closed off to all the sounds and sights and all the other (good, even) possibilities of play with her siblings. The wide ocean and never-ending shore was too much. She needed a few square inches in which to sit.
For most of us, that’s a good word. Find your few square inches. Find the people you are to love, and love them well, love them deep. Find the place you are to love, for now, and love it – love it in the steady, anxious-free way of one who does not obsessively hop, skip and jump from one option to the next. Pay attention to what you must do in your world, and simply do it. For any other posture, I surmise, our lives are simply too short.