You Only Live Once (Chasing the Will-o’-the-Wisp)

Sitting in a political philosophy class in college, my professor, Dr. Hans Schmeisser, noticed many students on their phones, texting or surfing social media. We then took a detour from Plato and Aristotle for the rest of the period.

Instead of political theory, we discussed something more permanent, yet forever fleeting.

That class was the first time I heard of Alan Watts. Schmeisser read from Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity.

“If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o’-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death,” wrote Watts.

How often do you check your watch or calendar for what’s next? You can’t wait until the next training session or competition. Maybe, if you are dealing with an injury like me, you can’t wait until you can get back to drilling or sparring. Or perhaps you think, “Man, it’s only Monday. I can’t wait until Friday.”

In doing so, we run the risk of wasting our lives, as Watts suggests, “chasing a will-o’-the-wisp.”  

The idea of the ever-escaping sands of time was around long before smartphones and snapchat.

Yamamoto Tsunetomo wrote in the Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, “Everyone lets the present moment slip by, and then looks for it as though he thought it were somewhere else.”

Age has a way of sneaking up on us. One minute, we are checking our reflection for pimples in our pubescence. The next, it’s gray hairs on our road to dotage.

Time is our most precious commodity. Use it wisely and don’t wish it away. Don’t get caught looking for it at the end of your life wondering where it went.

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