The Station: Living in the Present

"Dream as if you'll live forever.  Live as if you'll die tomorrow." James Dean, Actor (1931-1955)

When I was a young boy, my father told me a lovely story that his father had once told him; the story is called, “The Station”. It’s been bandied about, plagiarized and paraphrased, much like the many, classic stories from Boccacio’s Decameron or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Anyway, as my father told it (as imperfectly recalled by me), The Station went something like this:

Tucked away in our subconscious minds (where we do most of the thinking that causes our conscious thoughts and, then, shapes our actions), there is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We’re traveling by train (in those days). Through the train’s vast windows, we absorb the swiftly passing scene – of multifaceted houses, verdant fields, carefree children playing, spotted cattle grazing on distant hillsides, mosaics of flowers, lipid streams, belching smoke stacks, arid flatlands, cool valleys, rolling hills shrouded in mist, sun tinged forests and, as night falls, city skylines aglow under diamond-studded skies.

Intermittently, our thoughts return to our goal: our final destination. At a certain time, we will pull into The Station. Bands will be playing and flags will be waving. Once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. Driven by anticipation, we restlessly pace the aisle, resenting the time that it will take to get there, as we wait, wait, wait to get to The Station. “When we reach The Station, that will be it!” If we could just be 18 or 21 or buy that grand car or own that lovely home or have those perfect children or make the final payment on our mortgage, or become rich or famous or even just reach the age of retirement, then, then we can “live happily ever after” -- or so we believe.

Stop after stop, we find stations, but none is The Station that we envisioned. Somewhere along the way, we finally realize that there may not be an Ultimate Station, no one thing to achieve, no one place to arrive. We finally see it: The joy of life is the trip. The Station is only a dream, a dream that constantly outdistances us, because, when we reach one Station, we realize that another one lies ahead, each being another chapter in our unfolding lives.  Our lives are a history that we write, line-by-line; it's what we create, not  a destination.

“Relish the moment, my son,” said my dad. Remember Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord hath made; rejoice and be glad in it.” The old song, “Count Your Blessings” said it this way:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep I count my blessings instead of sheep And I fall asleep counting my blessings

It isn’t the burdens of today that drive us mad. It’s the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are the twin thieves who rob of us today. Dad made me think of John Lennon’s observation:

Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.

And, from David Gregory Roberts, from his modern classic, Shantaram, this pearl:

Live your life as if every day is a book with a happy ending.

What priceless advice.  So, let’s stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles until we reach The Station. Instead, let’s climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot in the velvety sand and summer’s warm waves, watch more crystalline sunrises and dusty-gold sunsets, and, above all, let’s laugh more, cry less and live every day as if it were our last. Life is to be lived as we go along, every day, every hour, right now.  Every day, we arrive at “The Station”.  The Station, the destination, our goal is here and now. We are There!

Thanks, Dad.