I’ve been a lover of the night for as long as I can remember. As a child, the dark hours positively engaged my imagination. As an adult, the overnight is my work time. I don’t alter the sleep/wake cycle on the off days because I do not want to miss out on the night. The dark hours are also when I take care of nonbusiness.
Case in point: this morning I began a short formal meditation, then transitioned to informal contemplation after going outdoors to wait for Orange the cat for our almost daily commune. With nonbusiness complete, I settled in at the desk to write this post. This relationship with the night has a feel of exclusivity to it. The majority of the town is asleep so it seems that the neighborhood fully belongs to me. It’s the perfect condition for harmony and creativity.
I believe that what really counts for human beings–community, family, individuality–are manifestations of singular cogitation and thinking. Solitary thoughtful thinking helps people better avoid the temptation to embrace dogmatic, rigid beliefs. In order to thrive, we require relief from workplace surveillance and intimidation. This allows meaningful expressions that belong to us to better develop. Without this, we have no authentic freedom.
When I was in the sophomore year of high school, one of my peers died on the field during a football game. He had not been tackled, but was sprinting the long run to make a touchdown. Just before he was to arrive at the end zone, he collapsed to the ground. Medics immediately carried him off the playing field and brought him to the hospital. After several minutes, the game resumed. Later, we were told that the player had died of massive heart failure.
His mother was one of my teachers, so the death was traumatic for her as well as the school at large. During the late evening before the funeral, I went to the mortuary to pay last respects for my acquaintance. As it turned out, I was alone with him for the first and only time ever. It was a profound personal discovery of the nature of reality. I was looking at death and thinking about the finality of it. There was no sugar-coating it.
It was during those quiet moments that I knew for sure what it meant to be isolated. Although we have family, friends, enemies, and people we don’t know, all of us–every animal and plant that has ever lived and will ever live is independent. I fully grasped the reality that, at a certain span of time, the football player was very much like me, but he ceased to exist the past Friday night on the playing field. The stark fact of the preciousness of my own time on Earth came as an epiphany at the mortuary while I gazed upon the lifeless body of my classmate.
This was not a morbid discovery. In a way, death became an ally. It revealed that the true self is a marvel to behold and enjoy. I never wanted to take life for granted any longer. School studies and chores took on different priorities in life’s hierarchy. I continued to perform work, but I also learned that it’s important to know when to walk away for awhile to take a break from the business of life. Each person really needs a certain portion of each day to daydream and feel the simple joys of being alive.
When we mindfully take care of nonbusiness, we are better able to take care of business, and whatever else we may encounter.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century columnist and journalist, Sydney J. Harris. “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”