They told you life is long
Be thankful when it’s done
Don’t ask for more
You should be grateful
But I tell you life is short
Be thankful because before you know
It will be over
‘Cause life is sweet
And life is also very short
Your life is sweet
— Natalie Merchant, Life Is Sweet
The very first time I saw the VH1 Storytellers video for this song I was getting dressed in a hotel room in California preparing for a busy day on a business trip. By all accounts it was a day of hopefulness and adventure. With the lyrics running in my head, it became the soundtrack forever associated with a tragic event in American history for me. That was the day that Columbine happened. I’ve been wrestling the song back from that event ever since.
There are people who will go to great lengths to apply their own brand of miserable to the world. But life can be beautiful if we offer a different perspective. We may not have as many days, or as many good days, as we’d want out of life. But the gift is there for us to celebrate should we take the time to unwrap it.
Returning from a business trip last night through Washington DC, flight again delayed and overbooked, as they all seem to be nowadays, I glanced at the television monitors showing rolling footage of another tragedy, this one the Titan submarine that imploded on a Titanic dive. We all know that life is short, and the untimely deaths of people making the most of their lives can be shocking. Perhaps that’s why everyone slows down when passing an accident scene, or tunes in when breaking news occurs. Each day offers the opportunity to affirm our beliefs in the darkest nature of humanity or the very best within us. What do we focus on in the moment?
Memento mori. Carpe diem. We know the soundtrack. Dance with life while the music is playing.