You’ve probably read somewhere the advice that you live today as if it were your last day on Earth. It’s a common counsel, and it’s supposed to get you to better appreciate the present. The argument goes that we tend to live unconsciously (like zombies), dreaming about better tomorrows or ruminating over worse yesterdays, and if we would only wake up (like heroes), and appreciate our moments of living as we live them, then our quality of life would be increased. We would be more alive to this present moment.
Certainly it’s true that if you were to think about how you might choose to spend today then you may well make different choices if you knew you had less time left to live than you had previously assumed. Some people make this an explicit exercise and consciously influence their choices on the basis of an assumption that this really is the last year they have to live. It’s something of this idea behind the movie, The Bucket List (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) – what would you put on your list to do before you “kick the bucket”?
The French philosopher, Pierre Hadot, writes about this in his “N’oublie pas de vivre”, but takes it to another level, I think. He suggests you reflect at the end of each day and see if you can say “Today, I have lived”, or “Today, I’ve had all the pleasure I could have hoped for” (he means in the context of this day, not the whole of life). In other words, knowing that you will never live this day ever again, can you say you have lived it fully? It’s about understanding just how precious this day is, and then being grateful for it. This is where he then takes the idea to a different level by combining it with the concept of “emerveillement” – of wonder and amazement. As well as living this day fully as if it were your last opportunity to do so (which it is!), approach the day as if you’d never lived it before (which you haven’t!). This latter concept is about not losing what we all had as children where the ordinary everyday was filled with wonder, where tastes were new, colours, shapes and sounds were whole worlds to be explored.
I think this is a powerful combination of concepts which can increase the intensity of the present, and in so doing, make us feel more alive.
Live life consciously, engaging with every day as if it were your first and your last, because, this really is your first and your last chance to experience today!