Friday, September 17, 2010

It's About Time

5:46 a.m., 2006

“We must be willing to get rid of the life

we planned for the life that’s waiting for us.”

I heard this line yesterday in a lecture. It’s attributed to the late mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell, who you may recall was the fellow who encouraged us all to pursue our bliss.

I never got into the Campbell oeuvre when he was alive. I knew about him. I watched the PBS series, The Power of Myth, he did with Bill Moyers. When we once lived next to a long wooded ravine, several of us guys in the neighborhood joked about camping in the woods, stripping down to our skivvies and beating drums while dancing around a fire. But talking about it was about as self-aware as we got. Mainly we were was too busy trying to be being good husbands and fathers, working on careers, paying mortgages and worrying about college tuition for our children to allow ourselves the luxury of bliss.

When you enter the empty nest stage of life you can have a second chance to find a passion and pursue your own bliss. For one thing, you have more time on your hands. If you have half a purpose about you, you also become aware that time is passing quickly and that you’d best not waste it perfecting your tan or watching soaps on TV.

There’s a wonderful moment in Pat Conroy’s memoir, My Losing Season, when a taciturn English professor at The Citadel, seeing promise in young Conroy’s writing, advises the young cadet that life is short and that he’d best get on with making something of himself as a writer.

Which brings us to the next line from Joseph Campbell:

“The privilege of a lifetime is knowing who you are.”

I once heard a college graduation speaker say that the best advice he could give us was to undergo psychological testing so that “you can know who you are.” I suspect the speaker’s wise words fell on a lot of deaf ears, what with graduates worried about getting jobs and being able to afford some new socks that didn’t have holes in them and all. But as I reflect back on that advice, I realize just how valuable it was.

I like Campbell’s idea about “knowing who you are.” But I’ve come to believe that the greatest privilege of life is appreciating the time you have to live it.

I like 5:46 a.m., above, because it reminds me that you can’t get the sunrise pictures you want if you insist on wasting the morning in bed.


  1. A poignant post, Chris. I keep a near-empty roll of toilet paper as a symbolic reminder of something I once read: "Life is like a roll of toilet paper - the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes."

  2. Oh, I like Sybil's comment here, too! Wonderful photo to illustrate your points.

  3. I got into photography because retirement was driving me out of what's left of my mind. Now that we're also empty nesters, as of 3 weeks ago, that old "what am I gonna do with all this free time" sensation is creeping back in again. I may have to get a job to pay for my hobbies!

  4. I've just downloaded iStripper, and now I enjoy having the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.