Last week I found myself in a dangerous situation not unlike many I had experienced before. A recent storm had dropped several inches of snow in the middle of a deep freeze that left a glaze of ice on what little road was exposed. The responsible thing to do was to work at home, eliminating the chance of committing an act of evil: that which, by intention, increases the risk of death or pain for other people without their consent and their ability to share in any gains. There was a chance, but it was arguably small, since everyone on the roads had implicitly decided to take the same risk. After a brief call to my boss, who subtly reminded me that work at the office was expected except under extreme circumstances, I decided to attempt the drive.
My first fourteen years of driving were in the Boston area, in cars that were far less reliable than the one I now drive, and under conditions much worse than any I've encountered in the Denver area since I moved here. I remembered that as I watched cars randomly cross lanes of the highway that were hidden by the snow. A reassuring thought stream from my subconscious reminded me that I was spoiled but not unprepared, and fed me directions derived from those early years and basic knowledge that was now part of my neuron memory.
As conditions rapidly deteriorated in one part of the trip, I experienced a burst of euphoria brought about by one stark, illuminating thought: if I die soon, I'll make sure that I die happy. Every experience any of us has ever had is already locked into the Universe, which no one and nothing can destroy; the next few minutes can be good or bad, in large part based on our own actions, and they too will be locked into the fabric of spacetime. We may as well make them good.
Coincidentally, my iPod started playing the theme to the TV show "Spenser for Hire," which had been a popular addition to Boston culture when I was driving there. The euphoria was joined by nostalgia, in part for the decade-long creative binge I enjoyed while working with my father in an attempt to develop and teach self-reliance through joyful derivation and use of understanding in any situation. My memories have long cast that time in terms of building a better future, but I now grasped that they depended on experiencing a better present. My father thrived in new situations, sometimes created by making what others would consider a mistake, and learning things from them that could alter his understanding of everything else so that life was more interesting. It was easy for me to focus on those larger insights, but I had lost sight of their source in the minute-by-minute experiences that are constantly embedded in the reality of the past and should be savored as much – or more.
As the world becomes a more dangerous place in the weeks and months ahead, I'm taking that recent experience and its insights to heart, folding them into a vision of how I want to spend the rest of my life, however long or short, and holding onto the goal of embedding as much joy as possible into the Universe – moment by moment.