Life Is (Not Always) Short
July 18th, 2011

Hanuman Das, Pashupati, Nepal

Hanuman Das — Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

I am going to die. I hope not today nor tomorrow nor anytime in the foreseeable future, but it is fact that I’m going to die. It gets worse. So are you. You are also going to die. We are all going to die.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of life being short. Like many, I’ve seen too much of this impermanence of life. When I was 21 my father died, and that tore the foundation from under my youthful existence. I felt almost unrooted—as if whatever security I had in the world was suddenly gone. A year later, mere seconds after I got out of the car, my dear friend Babette was the only remaining passenger in a car that ran a red light and was hit by another car. She flew through the windshield and bleed to death in the streets of Heidelberg. She was one of the most vivacious people I ever met. In a split second, one error turned a beautiful person into a horrible tragedy. The following year, my cousin was hit by a train as she crossed railroad tracks that had no railway-crossing guards. Her 18-month old son was killed. She was severely, and permanently, injured. Those were three tragedies in less than three years of my life.

More recently, exactly three months ago today, while I was in Italy’s Cinque Terre on day two of Liguria Within The Frame, my mother unexpectedly died. She hadn’t been ill, and she never would have planned to die while I was working in Italy and my sister was on vacation in Hawaii. She was far too considerate and organized to do something like that, and, trust me, you don’t want to be far from home and receive an email that your mother has died. Just typing that word brings tears to my eyes. Those tears never really go away. I still get tears when I think of my father, Babette, Brian and too many others.

These are just some of my stories of loss. You all have your own. We all do. We know people die. We know that others will die. And we know that we too will die. However, we prefer to pretend otherwise. We’re uncomfortable with death. We don’t like it. We struggle to accept it. Hope and optimism stand as sentinels to keep these thoughts far from our minds.

The reality is that for some, life is indeed far too short. They are with us and then suddenly they are not. There are often no warnings that a smile will be the last, or that we should give just a little extra hug. There is no warning that death might be waiting at the next red light, railway crossing, etc.

These are the kinds of stories that tell us that life is short and that we should use such brevity as motivation to embrace life. However, life is not always short. For example, my grandfather-in-law, one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met, was ready to die when he finally succumbed in his 90s. He lived a long and full life. He suffered the death of his wife, and he suffered the death of his only child. No amount of love—genuine, unconditional love—from others could convince him that he needed more of life. When his time came, he was ready to die. His life was long. It was not short. It was full. It was complete.

When I think of the phrase “life is short”, I am not motivated. I’m reminded of loss, pain, tragedy, and a sense of emotional hollow in which one could hide a universe. The phrase “life is short” seems like a superficial cliché that is used to justify self-indulgent, short-term gratification. Life is not always short. It is also not always long. It is often, however, extremely unpredictable, which is a blessing at times and a tragedy at others. If we could read the script, then we wouldn’t have the joy of living these wonderful lives of ours.

I can think of nothing that I will do because “life is short” that I’m also not going to do in case life is long. Therefore, at least for me, this temporal qualifier seems absolutely pointless—as if we’re meant to pretend to be in the final minutes of some sports activity and must act now or face certain defeat. However, the clock of life is uncertain; it’s unpredictable. We don’t know how much time is left.

We should do something not because life is short (or long) but because we have but one unique life in which to enjoy and strive to accomplish our dreams—or, more importantly, enjoy the path of that endeavor. It’s not the potential brevity of life that should motivate us. We should be motivated simply by life itself. Whether short or long, life is always unique and valuable.

My motivation is that I am, and my drive is for what I can be—for however much time I have.

47 Responses to “Life Is (Not Always) Short”

  1. Matt Connors says:

    A good and optimistic spin on a truism Jeffery. I think most people go through motivational periods and stagnant periods for a variety of reasons and life events. All part of the process.

    Your final thought above sums up a worthy motivational guideline for us all.

  2. Jeffrey –

    Funny how we see things so similarly and yet our words are so different. I nod my head at everything you’ve written, and recall painfully the memory of you dealing with your mother’s death. But for me the words Life is Short are incredibly motivating because were this life to just go on and on without end I would probably prioritize differently. I would do the same things, but less urgently. I would pace myself. But it isn’t, so I don’t. For some it’s the idea that you only have one life to live, for others the relative brevity of it, and for others still the fragility. It can, as you said, be over so quickly and unexpectedly.

    For me, this year has galvanized my urgency. That we have one short and fragile life, means I do this moment what I might otherwise put off if I were guaranteed 40 more years of good health. But what words we choose as motivation is less important than that we live each moment with as much intention and presence as possible.

  3. Radek Kozak says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head here Jeffrey. It doesn’t really matter if the life we’re leading is going to be short or long – we should be thankful for the simple notion that we can even reflect on it ’cause we have it. And the fact that it is, as you said, unique and valuable – that alone should make us motivated to accomplish sth with it. It is like in this initial quote from ‘Unweaving the Rainbow’ :

    “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia (…)”

  4. Radek Kozak says:

    to David: certainly putting the words “Life is Short” into our heads can make us prioritize our things differently and realize how precious our time here is – i agree. Sadly they are, more often than not, put there for us as the effect of the misfortune or near death accident (i know you know that). Rarely we come OURSELVES to such realizations (me included) and it is rather said in my opinion. But that’s the way it is in this hectic world i guess. Still i second Jeffrey that simple talking about life brevity shouldn’t be our main justification of living the life we want and in best scenario it shoudn’t be the starting point of chasing long postponed dreams and hopes. If it is, well, we must not at least forget our goals anymore! I’m glad to hear “I would do the same things” from you David and the words from Jeffrey in this post. You guys are indeed the lucky ones !

  5. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Matt, thanks.

    David, I feel that a sense of urgency can cause one to trip over oneself, to risk not slowing down and savoring existence, to cut corners in what needs to be a sound foundation of life, and to forgo what could be a brilliant forty-year effort in favor of forty one-year efforts.

    Radek, that’s a beautiful quote.

  6. Sure, it can lead to tripping over onesself. There’s possibility to err in every direction we take. But we live in a culture that largely ignores death. We worship youth and treat time as cheap. We say inane things like Time is Money, as though time can be borrowed. We talk about killing time as though we have plenty of it. When I say urgency I don’t mean panic. But you of all people I know have made some pretty quick decisions in pursuit of living intentionally. There’s always a risk, whether that’s in not slowing down or in not acting at all.

    I like the 40-year analogy, but I’m not sure either is the solution. I think the solution lies somewhere in the middle, working towards a brilliant 40 year effort made up of 40 brilliant one-year, efforts. If we acknowledge that this is about slowing down, living in the moment, then we need to take it a step further and say those 40 years are made up of an unbelievable number of brilliant moments. And if it’s the realization that life is short, beautiful, and fragile, that gets people to make that switch and live those moments, then I care not a wit what words are used for it. I just want to live those moments and not miss them. And I want that for those I love. So they can share those moments with me.

  7. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    A forty-year effort made up of forty one-year efforts would be a modular life, and you can’t always tie the pieces together and call it a whole. While potentially off topic, I fear that we have too many one-year efforts and far too few forty-year efforts.

    My point, however, is that time is not a variable that we can control––at all; so let’s accept it for what it is, whether short or long, and concentrate on what we can control, which is the beauty of our lives.

    Our motivation doesn’t need to be forty one-year efforts nor one forty-year effort. It needn’t be for any effort at all. It need only be that we have the possibility of being true to ourselves. We don’t need to rush. We need to notice. We need to be.

  8. Beautifully, beautifully written. You express so well ideas I have been thinking a lot about lately.

    “We should do something not because life is short (or long) but because we have but one unique life in which to enjoy and strive to accomplish our dreams—or, more importantly, enjoy the path of that endeavor. It’s not the potential brevity of life that should motivate us. We should be motivated simply by life itself. Whether short or long, life is always unique and valuable.”

    Yes. Yes. And thank you.

  9. Ray K says:

    I have noticed that if something is important to folks they will find a way to make it happen, short life fears or not. If it doesn’t happen for them if probably wasn’t important enough. Running your life on the fear that it might be short is still letting a fear control your life. I have come close to a short life all to often for most folks and it still isn’t a guide.

    I don’t see life as short and don’t let the fear of anything guide my choices. The long view and knowing that you are doing something that matters is the only guide to follow.

    Do what you love or love what you do. Well said Jeffery.

  10. Nicole Young says:

    Thank you for this post, Jeffrey. It brought a tear to my eye, and I’m so sorry for your losses. I think the only part of my life that I fear are those future moments when the people I love will pass … I’ve been lucky/blessed that I’ve (so far) only had to say goodbye to grandparents.

    This post is a sobering, yet very real reminder that life will throw curve balls and we need to make the most of it by sharing it with the people who are dear to us. I’ve been known to be overly open and honest with people I love, which usually results in heart-ache (for me), because I need to let people know how I feel before it’s too late. I want it all to be out there … no regrets. :)

  11. penny stetser says:

    I will take the risk of being mushy … I love you Jeff ! The tears never go away , I think it’s our way of keeping the people we’ve lost in our lives as long as we live . I remember you telling me about your beautiful friend’s death after the accident I had . We share the losses in our families , your loss is mine as mine are yours . That is what makes a life, no matter how long it is , having people to prop you up when needed and make toasts in your honor when life is good . Here’s to many more toasts , too early for vodka ? Go out and sow seeds !

  12. Well I don’t know whether life is short or life is long… I suppose its all relative. Sometimes, when I’m really nailing it, life just is, and I just am. Those are the best moments. When I’m worrying about whether its long or short or whether I have enough time or not, then its either too long or too short.

    In the face of painful losses, life seems too short. We always wanted another chance with the person we’ve lost.

    I have lots of things I still want to do in my life, but if I were faced with my last days, how much urgency would I actually have about getting to Crete or one of those other locations on my bucket list? Probably not a lot… I’d probably want to spend those days with those who enrich my life and in places that feed my soul.

    I understand urgency… I’ve lived with it as a motivator for most of my 50 years. Sometimes its good for getting my butt out the door, but more often than not, it prevents me from sinking in and appreciating this moment, the one I’m actually living where ever I happen to be.

    Jeffrey, thanks for the provocative post. It brought a few tears to my eyes along with the memories of both perfect moments and painful losses. I think those tears are motivators too… motivation to slow down and be with this moment because otherwise, it will be gone and the only I can know for certain is that I only have a chance at it once and if I’m too busy looking into the future for the next opportunity, I will surely miss this one.

  13. leonie says:

    “we should be motivated simply by life itself.”

    indeed.

  14. CJ Kern says:

    I believe it makes no difference if life is long or life is short. Because the only time we really have is now. It is what we do, or do not do now that determines the path of one’s life.

  15. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Dorothy, thank you.

    Ray, yes, fear is a cage in which we should never lock ourselves.

    Nicole, whether it ends in heartache or not, I believe completely in your openness and honesty. We are only as good as the people we love. It’s up to them to have the courage to love us back.

    Penny, I’m blessed to have you as a cousin, who became a close friend. It’ll never be too early to share a toast with you!

    Cami, slowing down is my goal. The longer I live, the less I want.

    Leonie, indeed. :-)

    CJ, you know, gin and tonics aren’t just for sharing in Nepal!

  16. Well, I hope to have the opportunity to share some slow time with you again…

  17. Jeffrey,

    Beautifully written and expressed, thank you.

    Stephen

  18. Danielle Kalinovskis says:

    I cannot begin to imagine how it must feel to have suffered such tragedies Jeffery and I am truly sorry for your losses. Your post and the responses it has generated have certainly made me think. Our modern notion of time is a funny thing given that there is only ever now, this moment. And all we can do is choose that our ‘now’ is a reflection of who we are and what we want our lives to be. I think that most of us live either in the past, or the future for most of our lives, reliving beautiful and/or painful memories and dreaming of times to come. Neither of these things are wrong (and as a prolific daydreamer I am certainly guilty of having my head in the clouds enough), but I sometimes wonder if our focus on the past and future and the question of how long or short life is removes us from enjoying the very precious moment of now. And of course some of those moments will be awful and painful, and others will be wondrous and joyful. So I guess that’s the beauty and the challenge of life, that nothing is permanent, and change is inevitable. So whilst we can, we should relish and savour the moments that take our breath away and yet also know that the times when we feel as if we’ve been kicked in the guts, this will also pass.

  19. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Cami, I’m counting on it! :-)

    Stephen, I’m counting on some slow time with you too!

    Danielle, what you so eloquently write reminds me of a poem:

    Look to this day:
    For it is life, the very life of life.
    In its brief course
    Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
    The bliss of growth,
    The glory of action,
    The splendor of achievement
    Are but experiences of time.

    For yesterday is but a dream
    And tomorrow is only a vision;
    And today well-lived, makes
    Yesterday a dream of happiness
    And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
    Look well therefore to this day;
    Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!
    –Kalidasa

  20. jilske says:

    There is no life without death. So to fear death is to fear to be alive.

    I’m with Ray, what motivates us shouldn’t be our fears. But then what does…so many philosophers have tried to provide an answer to this, and I don’t think there is a universal one. A personal one, yes. Maybe that’s why depression and suicide is so rampant. It’s not that life is short, it’s that many people no longer know what motivates them. What matters. And they get stuck looking for the answers.

    Time can help make priorities clear perhaps. But more often than not, it just puts more pressure on people. If we think of all the people we love, we don’t have enough of it. But give us eternity and we would be bored…to death.
    And if it comes down to doing what we love –like a wise man once said- what if she doesn’t love us back? Surely that can’t be the answer?

    We are all looking for something. Be it happiness, truth, love. Perhaps life’s just one big puzzle and my motivation to solve it is my infinite curiosity :) Hopefully I’ll never find out the answer! Though Douglas Adams knows it’s 42.

    Camille, I loved this: “life just is, and we just are.“ You sound like the perfect person to enjoy some slow time with!

  21. Jeffrey,
    I love this poem!!! Where did you come across it? I’m adding it to my collection of motivators ☺

  22. Danielle Kalinovskis says:

    Wow, what an extraordinarily beautiful and apt poem! Thank you for sharing it Jeffrey.

    jilske I think you are spot on when you said “it’s not that life is short, it’s that many people no longer know what motivates them. What matters. And they get stuck looking for the answers.”

    I have spent most of my life searching. Searching for an answer to a question I didn’t know I was asking. I do think that in pausing to just appreciate the present moment, that sense of urgency that constantly pushes me forward on a quest for ‘the answer’ (to what I don’t know) is quiet. By truly being ‘in the moment’ I feel free and truly myself. In writing this response I have suddenly realised that this is what I most love about photography. When I am not overanalysing my work and worrying what people think and I just let myself go, I am truly in the moment and get lost in it, in life, in the beauty that is everywhere.

    I love it when life gives you ‘ah ha’ moments! Who’d have thought that photography and philosophy could compliment each other so well?

  23. CJ Kern says:

    Jeffery, If you’re drinking I’m pouring.

  24. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Jilske, you love her anyhow.

    Cami, we share a love of books; if you didn’t live so far away you could come over and browse through some poetry books.

    Danielle, at least for me the two are inseparably intertwined, photography and philosophy are both ways in which I interpret and attempt to understand the world and my own existence in it.

    CJ, I remember! :-)

  25. Simon Morris says:

    Thanks Jeffrey – a truly powerful yet beautiful post… one that we should all learn from, thank you again for sharing!

  26. jilske says:

    Jeffrey, that won’t help the people whose Holy Grail is love :)

    Thanks Danielle, I think I know what you mean about the moment. To be somewhere and just be. No distractions.

    For me photography is a reflection of my philosophy as well. It might not show when others look at my photographs. But I know. Which is more than enough for me. Well no, I hope it also shows for the subjects I photograph, and that it also reflects something of them.

  27. jilske says:

    Btw, there are so many beautiful comments to this personal post that I wish we could all meet :)

  28. This is to everyone who is involved in this discussion…

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen such thoughtful, personal comments on a blog post.

    This morning, I sat down to work on a post for my blog that I began over a week ago. What I discovered was that I had started writing about vulnerability and travel based on a Ted talk I had watched a while back. Instead of writing, I listened to the talk again and I saw how the vulnerable tone of Jeffrey’s post had created an environment that all of us were drawn to in our own personal and vulnerable ways. If you haven’t seen it, its well worth watching: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html. (I’m not sure if that’s hyperlinked).

    Jeffrey, I wish I could come peruse your bookshelves, or that we could swap favorites! This conversation also brought to mind some of the talks I’ve listened to and poetry I love by David Whyte (http://www.davidwhyte.com/), who I think is not only a great poet, but a wise teacher.

    Finally, and at the risk of being a little windy, I’ll throw in a poem from my own files which seems to hit the nail on the head about what’s going on here in this really great conversation:

    It doesn’t matter what you do for a living.
    I want to know what you ache for;
    And if you dare to dream of meeting your hearts longing.
    It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
    I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
    For your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
    I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
    If you have been opened by life’s betrayals or
    Have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!
    I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
    If you can dance with wilderness and let the ecstasy fill you
    To the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful,
    Be realistic or remember the limitations of being human.
    It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
    I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself,
    If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
    I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty everyday,
    And if you can source your life from God’s presence.
    I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge
    Of a lake and shout to the silver of the moon, “YES!”
    It doesn’t interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
    I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
    It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
    I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
    I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
    And if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

    Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder

  29. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    No risk there Cami. That’s a beautiful poem, and a beautiful addition to these touching comments. (And many thanks for the links.)

  30. jilske says:

    Reading that poem has made me slightly heady, thank you so much, beautiful :)

    Perhaps the hardest part in our lives is being friends – and be a best friend to ourselves. Which was a point Brene Brown made near the end of her talk as well, I remember sending that to someone I felt wasn’t taking care of themselves at the time and it made a big difference.

    Can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll take a lot more windiness, please please please!

    (PS Camille, where can I find your blog? :) )

  31. I think, perhaps, what we’re all saying is it’s not “life is short” that should motivate us, but the words that you opened your post with, “I am going to die.” Life does end eventually, and we need to make the most of every minute we have available. We don’t know how much time we have nor how much of it we can use to make our mark on the world, but I think we all need to give it the attention and focus that it deserves. Short or long, we should live our lives fully so that when the end does come, we’ve done our best to make it count.

    I think what makes many people fear death is that they realize they haven’t done that and they somehow need to hurry up before it’s too late. Some simply give up trying.

    For me, my motivation comes from having people like you and David and Sabrina and Ray and Anita and everyone else in this community who tries every day to live a full, rewarding life and shares it with others. Short or long, we’re all in it together and I’m grateful for the examples you all set.

    Beautiful post, Jeffrey, and brilliant discussion.

  32. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Stuart, you’ve got me thinking. We talk about motivation, but motivation to do what? The key being that seemingly innocuous verb “do”. We talk a lot about doing. Perhaps we don’t think enough about being. Just being.

    I understand what you mean when you talk about making one’s mark on the world, but perhaps there is a secret in the reverse––just letting the world make its mark on us.

    Before we can do––should we even need/desire to, we need to be. And now I’d like to know… what mark can the world leave on me?

  33. Melissa Reed says:

    Jeffrey,
    Looks like we have more in common than a twisted sense of humor! :) I lost my father in law, my dog, my brother and my sister from March to June of 2009. I went from having 2 siblings to being an only child in a matter of 4 weeks. Tragic, and you are right, everyone has their own stories,their own deaths. It’s crazy how you can feel so much anguish and pain and feel like you can’t breathe, but life keeps going on, it moves around you. Life doesn’t stop. Ever. For anything. I agree though – the life is short phrase doesn’t necessarily motivate me either. In fact, I’m struggling with motivation right now. Good things are on the horizon, but it’s up to me to kick it into gear and realize those goals. The problem is some days I struggle to find that motivation.

    This post resonates with me – and makes me realize that I haven’t figured anything out yet. There is so much uncertainty in life. For me, it’s not about how long life is. I’ve realized at a young age – the choices you make now can affect your life for a very long time…

    Sometimes I think it’s better for me not to think too deeply about these things. To follow my gut and try to realize my dreams, but I get into trouble when I try to over analyze things. I do that too much, and it paralyzes me. I’m still dealing with my sibling’s deaths – I was with my brother when he died – he was blind, and hit by a car. He was on life support for 12 days and when he wasn’t improving, we took him off life support and donated his organs. I still see that operating room, and those doctors when I close my eyes. I can still see the doctor from UW Madison waiting to harvest his organs. And the doctor that held my hand, and unplugged my brothers life support at the same time.

    I think when you go through things of this magnitude, like you did, or I did, or many other people do, it changes you in ways you can’t explain in words. Not that all of these changes are bad, but I don’t know if all of them are good. I can’t explain it – it changes the core of who you are. Maybe it makes you look at things differently. Yes, life is short, you never know what could happen. But you have a point – life can be long as well. Whether it’s short or long, the point is to make it a good one, right?

    Whoa, sorry, got a little long winded. Hope some of what I had to say made sense…

  34. Melissa Reed says:

    Oh and by the way, when I try to subscribe to your blog (which I’ve done twice before, it just opens up another window of your posts…I’m trying over here!!! What do you think I’m doing wrong? Wait, of course I’M not doing anything wrong…it has to be your blog! :)

  35. Hmmm… it works both ways, yes? Doing the work becomes more meaningful if we pay attention to what the work does to us. During The Artists’ Round Table in Port Townsend in June, we were treated to a performance of Japanese bhuto dance. We were asked to only watch and pay attention to how we reacted to the performance, both mentally and physically. In other words, just be present in the moment and absorb how the performance made its mark on us. It was a revelation for me to really understand what it felt like to be fully in the moment.

    I think you’re right. We need to listen to the world, to just be in it, before we can know what to do for it.

  36. Danielle Kalinovskis says:

    Being on the other side of the world to you guys (London) I woke up this morning to all these incredible posts that have kind of blown me away.

    Jilske – I totally know what you mean about wanting to meet up with everybody. How incredible to be able to discuss our creative passions of photography and also have discussions of a more philosophical nature. Wait, isn’t that what the ‘Within the Frame’ adventures are? Right Jeffrey and David? It’s on my bucket list!

    Camille – talk about synchronicity! Another wonderful soul brought my attention to the work of Brene Brown and I saw that TED talk about a month ago and was blown away by it. I’ve just bought her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ which I plan to read if I can ever pull myself away from Jeffrey and David’s blogs! And what a beautiful poem! Truly beautiful, it quite took my breath away.

    Melissa – your post brought a lump to my throat that threatened to burst into full blown tears. I can feel your sadness in your tone and it just made me want to reach out and hug you. I am so sorry for your loss, and can’t begin to imagine what you have been through. Perhaps it’s not so much that these awful events changed the core of who you are, but that it revealed more of who you really are. Have you read Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘A New Earth’, not an easy read by any means but certainly and eye opening one. I hope my words don’t seem trite to your experience, I truly do feel for you.

    Jeffrey and Stuart – I love both your sentiments “We talk a lot about doing. Perhaps we don’t think enough about being. Just being” and “We need to listen to the world, to just be in it, before we can know what to do for it “ and what I hear in both your words is essentially pause, take a deep breath and stop racing through life on an eternal quest to ‘do’. We are after all called Human ‘Beings’ not Human ‘Doings!’

    And by the way Jeffrey, it would seem to me that you are doing a pretty fantastic job of being yourself “My motivation is that I am, and my drive is for what I can be—for however much time I have” so please keep on ‘being’ who you are! What an incredible post and amazing bunch of responses.

  37. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Melissa, I heart you too! You brought tears to my eyes, and I’m very OK with that. Like Danielle, I’d love to be able to reach through the internet and hug you.

    Stuart, I wish I could have been at ART––not just for the content but for the people. There were many there that I’d love to meet in person. I’m just going to have to get out to the west coast. It turns out that airplanes don’t just fly across oceans!

    Danielle, I kind of know how you feel. I woke this morning to find more moving comments here, emails in my inbox and direct messages on twitter. A lot of people aren’t ready to comment in a public forum, but it seems clear to me that when given an opportunity people want to share. We want to know that we’re not alone in our struggles––like we want to know that we won’t be left alone to celebrate our successes. I think that if this post and even more so the comments have resonated with people it’s for this reason; it’s a doorway into sharing.

    I have said it before, but it is so very worth repeating. I love this community. Many of you I have had the great pleasure to have spent time with in person. For all the others, I sincerely hope to have this opportunity––and sooner rather than later. And as soon as Jilske organizes that gathering, I’ll be there! :-)

  38. Melissa Reed says:

    Jeffrey-Well, some day soon we’ll have to meet so a real hug can be arranged? And about 10 glasses of a good Pinot Noir. :) I intend on making it to a WTF trip someday soon. Just have to get out of this back brace first and see how affected my range of motion is post spinal fusion. Still wish I was going to Laos! I was trying to convince David to add WI onto his itinerary for his trip, but apparently I don’t stack up, because it isn’t South & West! I think he just doesn’t care for my state! :) Someday we must meet. For sure! I think we have some things in common and can sit and talk for hours…

    Danielle – I will have to check out that book! Thanks for mentioning it – I love a good read…especially ones that make me think!

  39. [...] I know where to start anymore. Yesterday, I sat down to write and got sidetracked reading my friend Jeffrey Chapman’s blog post and the comments following it. What I had already written seemed directly connected to what I was [...]

  40. jilske says:

    Hey who voted me organisator? Do I get to choose where we meet then? If so, my vote goes to Indonesia or New Zealand. Far away for everyone, except me :)

    Danielle, go on a WTF, you will love it for exactly that reason. David and Jeffrey’s friendship is adorable, and they cuddle incredibly well, with each other of course. Seriously though, chances are you’ll make friends for life. Not to mention your photography will improve, that’s a given :)

    Now I’m off to explore Cami’s blogpost!

  41. Melissa Reed says:

    @Ray K – I just reread your post, and I think it’s brilliant. Now, not everyone that says “life is short” is letting fear run their life, they are simply just stating something they feel is true – BUT – I think when I equate life is short, I do feel fear. I think that is also just all the tragedy in 2009, especially with my brother, because his death was so violent. To be blind, crossing the street, and have an 81 year old driver mow you down, that’s pretty violent. To go through 2 brain surgeries in 1 day, and in a coma for 12, ugh, I can’t even tell you. So when I think “life is short” – at least for now, I see him. Hooked up to machines, cut up, bruised, beat up. And I start to have an anxiety attack, I swear!
    Like I said though, not everyone is going to equate “life is short” with fear, and that’s fine – that’s great. Because I guess we need to tell ourselves whatever it takes to get us motivated, to get us to realize those dreams we have.
    But the bottom line is, you are SO correct – we can’t let fear run our life. And so many people do. I’ve been (and sometimes still am) guilty. But I think when you become more AWARE of it, it becomes a little easier to alter.
    Great points.
    This is a great post – an eloquent blog post, and some great, great comments. Jeffrey, you done good! :) Way to stimulate our brains!

  42. Jilske, since you’ve been voted “organizator”, you can count me in for the meet up. :) .

    Melissa, It sounds to me like you’re dealing with a trauma issue regarding your brother. That reliving it thing is a tough thing to deal with. I’ve learned a tiny bit about trauma. There’s a good book out there that’s called Waking the Tiger (author is Peter Levine) about healing trauma.

    Thank you to all of you for this great conversation…

  43. Eli R. says:

    Well I think you will agree on “Life is to short to drink poor wine.” :-)

    To me the “Life is too short” bit started giving meaning when I realised I may have lived more than half my life already. Then I started thinking about all the things I want to do before the show is over. This new consciousness have given me a fuller life.

  44. Dear Jeffrey,
    I loved what you wrote about your feelings after knowing your mother passed away. My youngest son died when he was 14, in 2003, and after that I’ve been always thinking how short one’s life could be – in a real sense and in metaphorical meaning.
    I am writing to you today because today is August, 5th which was the day my son “decided” to go around and see beyond the boundaries already known.
    I wrote a book telling how he faced his own life. It was published in Brazil and in Portugal. I am looking for a publisher house in U.S in order to published there.
    My book has a website and I’ll be glad if you go there http://www.opequenomedico.com
    Thank you so much for letting us know a little more about you.
    All the best, Graziela Gilioli

  45. Jacob Venard says:

    Jeffrey,

    Having lost my father to cancer when I was 28, I too was rocked impernmanence of life. The day before he passed we had a conversation while he faded in and out from morphine. What hurt the most was knowing that my future children would be without a wonderful grandfather. This Labor Day will be six years since his passing, and the fact that he and my 2-year old daughter do not get to experience each other remains the only pain that time has not healed at all.

    I have to fight back the tears and can hardly speak whenever she sees a photograph of him and calls him “Her grandpa Bob.”

    His passing was also changed me in that “Life is short” became about appreciation for our lives and the lives of those we love rather about justification for self indulgence. The phrase is more of a reminder than a motivator.

  46. Stefan Mokrzecki says:

    Some absolutely wonderful posts here.
    Short or long, life happens whether we are “looking”, as in paying attention or not. How much better then, to make sure that we pay attention, as life is indeed something to be treasured. Set those goals and work towards them, but never squander the present for every moment is precious. Our life is made up of personal markers with the emphasis on “personal”, it is when we review these markers (good and bad) that we fully appreciate we are living a life.
    Above all else truly “FEEL”…….because we can.

  47. Marek says:

    It was pleasure to read this post here.
    You are very cleaver and mature person and you absolutely menaged call something who even poets had problem to describe.
    Thank you very much for shearing

    PS I hope I will manage financially to join you during workshop with you at some point in my life.

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