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The Fallacy of a Throwaway Moment

In a very short time I am going to become eligible for the senior discount at most movie theaters. This makes me irrationally happy. Our favorite theater recently installed very comfortable seats, so lazy-boy like that sleeping during the movie is now almost a guarantee. I didn't see it, but in these chairs I think I would have slept even through Fifty Shades of Grey(probably for more than one reason). But the price for one of these loungers is a whopping 17 bucks! Each time I plop out my American Express (who carries that kind of cash?) to purchase a ticket, I can feel the earth move as my Scottish ancestors roll over in disgusted amazement!

Recently the dilemma has been that young ticket sellers have fairly regularly said to me, "two seniors?" The dilemma is less moral than insulting. I'd take the unearned discount in a New York minute except for the fact that the teenybopper selling me the ticket has just insulted me by assuming that I am already old. Muttering something akin to, "Not so fast, Skippy," I pay the full price with a grimace and an icy glare.

Passages -- they are all around us. Last night I got word that a very good friend, a contemporary of mine, is suffering from some weird condition that is making it difficult for him to walk. He and his wife, lifelong friends (actually only since college, but that counts as lifelong), and their children are like family to me. My friend is going to be okay; I am sure he is. But as so many things do, this event unsettles and reminds me that we just never know.

We say it all the time: Life is short and no moment is a throw away. And, yet, the truth is there is no area in which our words and actions are less congruous. We throw away huge segments of our lives on things that do not matter at all, or at least not nearly as much as the time devoted to them suggests. I am talking less about working too much than I am about the truly ridiculous distractions to which we give over so much of our lives, life energy that is not unlimited. The negative side of the competitiveness that we laud and honor in our culture (the worth of which I do get though not without suspicion) is that it encroaches on so much of our potential for living, creating battles of turf and power over things that are not nearly as important as they seem at the moment. Hardly any area is sacrosanct, such struggles creeping into personal relationships in which winning a point takes on joyless life of its own. 

Calling one another on this problem doesn't seem to do much good. Even when I need to be reproved I miss some of the message by the sting of its delivery. But what does work is to see people I respect making some headway in this complicated aspect of life, to see them refusing to take the bait, choosing to take the high road, or shrugging rather than piling on to the fray.

In the beauty of this early spring morning I truly get it. And though I am pretty sure that I will not see so clearly throughout the day, I am going to try, really hard, to remember what it feels like even for a moment to grasp the depth of this simple truth: Life is short.    

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Join me at the Forum on Sunday at 10 o'clock for a conversation with Dr. Rebecca Weis, a child and adolescent Psychiatrist and professor at NYU School of Medicine. A parishioner at St. Bart's and herself a parent, Rebecca will talk about the warning signs of mental health issues with our children (suicide, depression) and what help is available.