Social Thoughts on Transience


Back in October one of my aunts passed away, and later that month another passed as well. This is a note I wrote to myself, and although kept private, to others as well:

With the recent passings of my two aunts I am reminded of the fact that the people we hold dear to us will come and go at different points in our lives. My auntie Yo is the most exuberant person I know, and will always remind me of how many reasons there are to laugh and smile in any situation we find ourselves in. My auntie Ellen exhibited an appreciation for life that I can only hope to share one day, and will always remind me of how much clearer things become when you focus on what you have to be grateful for. It seems unusual when thinking of the several family members who have passed in the past few years, but I recognize it is a natural and universal part of growing up. It saddens me to think that I will no longer be able to see certain members of my family, that the gatherings they usually brought to life will no longer be the same. But because this is something we all experience with the passing of loved ones, it reminds me of how fortunate we are to have all of the amazing people we know be a part of our lives in the first place. In retrospect, there is nothing we can do to prevent those we love from eventually parting with us. The only responsibility we have is to participate in their lives, to be present with the people around us and express all love and care. I am lucky to have been able to engage with my two aunts for the time that I did. And I hope they, as well as others, are able to rest well knowing that they will always be in the thoughts of the many people who love them.

I believe everything I thought two months ago: We cannot hold onto things that are transient. Every aspect of our lives is, by definition, fleeting. But this does not have to be taken with a sullen tone. We cannot make our joys last forever, or our memories last a lifetime. But we can appreciate the time we have in this life and with the people we love, and engage with the world around us in the best ways possible.

I believe that engaging with the world around us in a fulfilling manner requires a lack of judgement and a higher perspective. We tend to assign our biases, previous assumptions, or personal beliefs onto our surroundings like the automatic scan of a grocery label. Yet if we are attempting to make the most out of our present time these biases and presumptions should be given the chance to mean nothing. That is, a person or place we are dispositioned to should be given the chance to be considered in a different light.

Since most of our lives are spent in consideration of others, for good or bad, let's think of this in social terms. For example, imagine someone who has started to annoy you. Naturally, the next time you see them you will regard them in some disposition in which you expect to be annoyed. But why? No human is wholly one thing or another, and people change day to day. Our best friends are not 100% angels and our arch enemies are not 100% Donald Trump. Everyone has a back story to their daily lives. We share so many lovely experiences with the people around us, but many experiences we live are intimate or personal, and many of them rarely shared. When someone is cranky, unresponsive, or just plain out of it, it is not our right to judge them. When we ourselves are experiencing something strange, something that throws us off, would we want someone to pin our present state against us? Probably not, and even though it may be difficult to think further than our instincts in our day-to-day lives, it is important that we do.

This is something I hope to practice daily - mindful consideration of circumstance and transience. Not only might it benefit the world around us, but our experiences in life at large. I think the bottom line is that we can always think about others more, compassionately and on terms that are less self-serving, even if we already believe that we think about others more than ourselves.