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Do What You Need to Do

See the moon roll across the stars
See the seasons turn like a heart
Your father’s days are lost to you
This is your time here to do what you will do
Your life is now, your life is now, your life is now
In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now
— John Mellencamp, Your Life Is Now

I’m currently read a book set in Provence, and it’s having the expected effect of making me crave a trip there. YouTube videos of the place don’t help, as they only affirm just how beautiful it is there. I’ve had similar dalliances with beautiful places around the world. The world is out there, awaiting the adventurous and the bold. The rest may only dream.

I do snap out of these moments and reset myself to the now. “Your father’s days are lost to you”, as Mellencamp sang; “This is your time to do what you will do”. It’s October in New Hampshire, with peak foliage and crisp air reminding us that we too live in a beautiful place. It’s high time to be present right here. We are human and sometimes want what we don’t have in our lives. We must consistently remind ourselves to skate our own lane.

“Death may be close at hand; death may be far off. Transcend death with no-thought, no-idea. Do what you need to do, with no regret.” — Awa Kenzo, Zen Bow, Zen Arrow

It’s easy to say we ought to transcend and do what we need to do, it’s harder to do it in a world that demands attention. I interrupted my writing flow state on this very blog to correct some puppy behavior and give the dog something else to chew on. Does this mean I’m not fully present in my work, or that I’m fully aware of the larger world around me? Puppies are great reminders that we aren’t fully in control of anything, but we can still fit our own work in. A mountain stream is constantly interrupted by obstacles in its flow, yet it still finds its way to the sea.

The thing is, none of us is here forever, and all of us are faced with the will of the larger world around us. We may yet shake this world nonetheless if we dream big and persist with our purpose. But we must also remind ourselves to look up from it now and again and see just how beautiful this life actually is. If a puppy or autumn foliage or the mirror remind us of anything, it’s that now will soon be then. As Seneca once said, we must seize what flees: Feel the urgency to do what we need to do, and to do it with no regret.

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