I recently got around to reading a McGill alum magazine featuring Leonard Cohen. The article expressed how he lived in the moment, thanks to Zen Buddhist practices. Too often we plan for the future or linger in the past, our minds time machines I once read. Within the last year or so I also became familiar with Jonathan Larson’s story. He died at the age of 35 on the morning before the preview of what became the phenomenon Rent that he composed. The musical even has a song, you know the one, where he writes about how there is no future nor past, only the present. He writes about missing out on life if you live with regret or not in the moment.
I spent last week with my dad, and we watched one of my favorite childhood films, White Nights, in his Florida home. It is a dance thriller starring the sensational Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. While I was watching this classic (at least for my family), I was living in the moment. It stimulated my mind to touch on subjects such as artistic freedom, home, and passion. In one line the Baryshnikov character states that he is born to dance.
What were you born to do?
The white nights of the then U.S.S.R. in the movie precipitated in me a sense of longing for our Winnipeg sunsets between nine and ten at night. The Baryshnikov character had built a new life in New York City after leaving his homeland, just as I have created a home in Winnipeg, though his transition was of course more culturally dramatic. We retain bits of our origins while assimilating to our new homes.
The soundtrack to the movie features artists such as Phil Collins, Lou Reed, and Chaka Khan. The themes of the songs range from people living lives apart and even on the other side of the world to how you feel when you are alone (which might be that everyone else lives on the other side of the world). There is a theme about walls between people. Even with the fall of the Berlin wall, we still live lives separated from the other citizens of the world, from our friends, from our brothers and sisters. There are even walls within ourselves, parts of us we repress or feel ashamed of. All those inner parts of ourselves we mask from the outside world. That’s the part of us that incites us to say we are fine when we’re not when asked how we’re doing. Look around you and think of all the walls that exist in your life, even in the presence of a world virtually connected by the web.
What walls exist in your life?
Passion, living in the moment, artistic and academic freedom, our origins, our homes, our past that we bring with us to our present selves, these are such important currencies in life. Right now I take a moment to feel gratitude for the good stuff in my life. I can forget the existential dilemmas and live in the moment. I feel ready to embark on a new perspective, one of the moment. And in this moment, right here, right now, as I write this, listening to Chopin back home in Winnipeg, and drinking tea, I feel appreciation for the present.
This is the good stuff.