In August 2008, the Russians invaded Georgia. This was not expected.
I was there at the time. When the first explosions hit, my friend J texted from the US.
“I think there’s a war going on.”
“No, no. It’s just a border skirmish.”
I insisted that she continue making vacation plans to visit me. Then Russia raised its voice. Turned out, it actually was war. That’s what war sounds like when it starts. Sometimes.
“Don’t worry,” I texted J, “the Russians are invading.”
Huddled with other volunteers, I watched newscasters report, without a trace of irony, “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!”
We made our way across the border to Armenia. There, the winter olympics dominated the news. Never mind the war next door.
I confirmed with J that now was not a good time to vacation in Georgia.
It’s funny how our times shape our lives. After September 11, I had an epiphany that woke me from sleep. It was about death. From that day on, I felt in my bones the precious, fleeting nature of life, a feeling that has never left me.
But even so, I made plans. Plans! …They assume a future.
My Georgian host family found my plans hilarious. Earlier, when I told them that J was coming in a month for a visit, they laughed. “How do you know?” they’d ask. “Because we planned it.” More laughter.
During the invasion, I called my host family. The first thing they said was, “Do you still think life happens according to plan?”
What a lesson.
Today, I can’t say “see you tomorrow!” as I used to. I can’t assume it at all. I can’t assume any tomorrow at all. The only moment is the one we’re in.
Yes, others find me odd that way. But as a result, I’m a lot calmer about dashed plans in general. And a lot more passionately in love with the moment.
When I write, I write against time leaning dangerously against me. I write against death’s hand pressing me. Aware of how precious the instant is, it’s not death which dominates each one, but life.
Imagine we could see time as we do space. What would it look like?
Little ozymandiuses, that’s what we are. Time our sculptor.
We have only the briefest moment to love, to give, to create, to laugh… and even to die.