Beauty and Responsibilities

Mary Oliver (one of my favorite poets, along with Hafiz) wrote this thought in her poem “Flare,” part 12:

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world and the responsibilities of your life.

I think I shall be living in this line all day, and because of introversion, all my lovely thoughts about it will likely remain inside my head. But here’s one, before the introversion takes over.

This single line of poetry may be the best remedy for my sorrow at the loss of a 97-year-old gentleman who was my longtime client and came to feel more like a friend, despite his wealth, status, and accomplishment that were far above my own. In the writing he and I did together, my role was mostly to bring out the best in him. We continued to work together productively until a few weeks before his passing.

He embraced responsibilities his entire life, always seeking more and never feeling overwhelmed by any that came his way. And he eagerly took in the beauty of the world, visiting more parts of it than any other person I’ve ever known. On rare occasions I thought of him as a hedonist, but now I think that he simply lived mindfully.

But the reason this line of poetry will remain in my head all day is the reminder to me that my lifetime, too, will not be long enough for the beauty of the world and the responsibilities that are mine to fulfill. The way the Roman poet Horace put it was: “Carpe diem!” I like better Mary Oliver’s way of saying the same thing.