This very famous quote is attributed to Tess Flanders from 1911 (more precisely, it went more like “Use a picture. It’s worth 1,000 words”). I wanted to riff on this idea.
As promised, this is the first installment in my series entitled, “A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words”. I asked my Facebook family to provide me with pictures that they felt would inspire me to write 1,000 words. Here is the first one of the bunch provided by my friend whom I will refer to as “Double Awesome”.
Thanks, bambina. Hope you like it!
We drift from moment to moment unaware of the moment that the moment is gone
A letter to those coming of age on the eve of my son’s 18th birthday
In the fleeting hours of our youth we sail through time at full speed. We dance and play while the sun sets and we pretend that this time will not fade just as quickly as the light drifts beneath the horizon.
You have not before, nor will you ever again, dance with such abandon as in this moment. We make great haste in our youth to reach this moment and we will search for the rest of our lives in vain to recapture it.
And in only a few of these brief moments, time stands still long enough to etch a memory deep enough that some of the feelings remain long after the sound and color began to fade.
There is only a vague feeling in this moment of what this moment will come to represent: this may be your finest hour. There was no time ever before, nor will there be hereafter, when you are this strong, this bold, this hopeful, this free, this healthy, this happy, this ready, this eager or this resilient all in one moment. You had no idea how naïve you had been up to this point nor will you ever be able to return to such a state of innocence.
And suddenly this moment is upon you: as dusk looms, it spills its vibrant pallet of colors on the horizon. In this space, light and time stretch and then ultimately fade. A soft ocean breeze soothes your burnt skin. The sand, still warm from the sun, gently gives way under your feet. The brilliance of the sunset juxtaposes the magnificence of the bonfire that will soon alight the night’s sky.
The cool salt air of the sea tempers the harsh smoke from the fire. The violent, uneven crackling of the fire affords a counterpoint to the calm, soothing meditation of the ocean meeting the sand. A million billion stars litter the heavens as if they were a low hanging canopy you could reach out and touch.
A siren’s song of youthful lust and longing sings through the chemicals and emotions that this moment evokes. In this moment, you will feel free to express what years of conditioning have compelled you to suppress – You are at the nexus of freedom and desire.
You may resume your life again tomorrow pursuing the career or profession of your choosing, but this moment shall exist outside of that practical, pre-planned future you have in mind. School, work, bills and responsibilities will all be waiting for you when this moment is over. You will have a lifetime of obligations ahead of you – Don’t be in such a big damned hurry to start them.
There will be some people that cannot (or will not) relinquish their control in this moment. Always looking forward, always calculating the effect of their next move, always considering how others may perceive them, they squander what may be the only moment in their lives to truly live carefree without regard to the judgments of anyone around them. Instead of joining in the merriment, they watch from afar and mock what they secretly wish they could share.
And then there will be those overwhelmed by the excitement of this moment. Drunk on the elixir of their first taste of boundless, unrestricted pleasure, they are powerless to resist its effects and will forever after chase (in vain) the fleeting sense of euphoria.
Some folks will look at this image and remark that it was most likely modified or edited in some way; The colors appear distorted or enhanced. Technology and artistry have made it possible to heighten the effect of what was surely a beautiful scene on its own by turning it into an almost surreal image.
But was it not surreal for those who lived that moment? Who can say that that is not how those people in the picture actually experienced it? Can’t the magic of a moment heighten your reality in order to create an extra-realistic memory? Perhaps the skeptics are the ones who would not permit themselves to fully experience the magic of such moments in their own lives?
And what of the figures captured in this picture? Look how they each experience this coming of age differently:
In the presence of this extraordinary moment-
- Some are moved to express and acknowledge a deepening of their faith
- Others simply stand in awe
- Some will seek to augment this experience through artificial means
- Others may not be moved at all
- Some may feel like they are finally a part of something greater than themselves
- While others may feel completely left out.
Invariably, we will identify with one of the figures in this scene. But in so doing, it’s easy to overlook the figure not pictured in the scene: the one taking the picture. More over, is it possible that we may embody all of the figures at one time or another?
As I reflect on some of the timeless moments in my life that I’ve experienced (such as the one captured so marvelously here), I endeavor to be mindful of the beauty in every moment.
So this is as much a reminder to me as it is advice for you: THIS IS THE VERY BEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE since it is the only time you can ever live. You cannot relive the past (no matter how awe inspiring the pictures may be) and the future is as uncertain as a coin toss (no matter how well planned or how much you’ve saved). You are not guaranteed tomorrow any more than you are able to relive yesterday.
Whether you choose to celebrate or commiserate, today may be the only day you have left. What’ll you do with it? If you ask me…live every minute of it.