“Nothing is worth more than this day.”
I was staring irrelevance straight in the face, and I didn’t like it. The conversation began innocently enough: We’re in an interesting time musically, I was explaining to a friend, because popular music as we know it was created at a time that has allowed us to see an amazing amount of creative innovation, but recently enough that we don’t have to be completely overwhelmed with the amount of music we could potentially explore as listeners and performers. (Though sometimes I still do feel overwhelmed when trying to cover enough musical ground to feel as though my grasp of music history is reasonably comprehensive.)
I told my friend that with the Internet allowing thousands of indie and self-released artists to find their way into my listening space these days, I do find it challenging to keep up to date with the trends. Imagine, I postulated, how hard it will be to feel encyclopedic about music in 50 or 100 years. There won’t be enough hours in the day; there will just be too much music to sift through. You could never feel like you’ve been exhaustive in your listening experience. I’d be so stressed about hearing as much music as possible and connecting all the dots that I’d probably never relax enough to actually enjoy the music I did hear. I sure am glad I live now and not then, I told him. What a privilege it is!
Put In My Place
I sat there feeling satisfied by my position in the universe when he lobbed the bomb at me: “In 50 or 100 years, it won’t matter. None of the music that’s important now will have the same importance then. It will be as relevant as the music from the 19th century is today.”
I was a little taken aback that I hadn’t really thought of that (how self aggrandizing I had been), but realized it was true. The most relevant music from today will wind up being the Claude Debussy or the Robert Johnson of tomorrow—important and influential in a historic context, but representing an entire era of music among a select handful of names that could fit into a textbook paragraph. Unless I made a musical contribution in the same ballpark as the Beatles, I’d be all but guaranteed to be completely forgotten, a distant memory of time.
Sonofabitch. He was right.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to music. For the most part, everything I do will mean absolutely nothing a century after I’m gone. Every atom in my body will be repurposed somewhere else in the universe and the better part of my existence will be reduced to little more than a few vague ancestral anecdotes. Kinda depressing, I thought to myself. What the hell is the point?
When It Matters
But soon my train of thought took its usual twist, and a cold but realistic observation was turned into a much warmer personal lesson. Yes, it’s true that what I do with myself probably won’t matter a whole lot in the long run (even if I do write a timeless, classic song or establish a successful charitable foundation). But there is one time that my actions and intentions definitely do matter: right now. And therein lies the simplest of lessons. Now is all that matters, and because of that, now actually matters quite a bit. If ever we need a reminder of that, all we have to do is start peering into the distant future or digging into the past to try and find ourselves. I exist here right now, and no other time. So there is nothing more valuable than the here and now; nothing is worth more than this day.
If there’s nothing I can do that is guaranteed to last forever, then that means I have a single purpose: to do exactly what I’m doing right now, whatever that is, and do it with conviction. At this exact moment (as I type) my purpose is to write this blog post. Later on tonight my purpose will be to clean some dishes. If I don’t like what I’m doing, I can change it. If I can’t change it, then I can accept its inevitability, I can make the best of it, and I can try to truly live in that moment. Because it’s all I have. Of course, I’ll still spend many of my “nows” trying to accomplish great things, but even the greatest of artists and the wisest of men can’t do that during every waking moment. So whatever I’m doing right now is exactly what I’m meant to be doing. That’s what my life is all about.