When I was 22 I wrote a poem, “Now Lasts Forever.”
I used to write poems a lot. They weren’t very good, but they represented my effort to try to figure out what life is all about. Why are we here, what is the point, and how should I approach this thing called life? Another poem was called “One Day Closer to Death,” in which I worked through the fact that mortality is liberating – if we know we someday will die, then doesn’t that make it exceedingly important to try to get the most out of life, and truly life the life we want to live?
As quixotic as that endeavor was – I was never destined to become a poet – I think the introspection that brought helped me develop an attitude that works in life. To have perspective, to recognize the power of thinking positively, and not letting the crap that happens in this world cause me to forget the beauty and opportunity. Introspection is essential if one wants a happy life, in my opinion.
So now over thirty years later I want to re-consider this poem and what it means to me now. Now…funny, when I wrote it it was “now” as well!
You look back, what do you see
A dull and fading memory
Happier times when you felt free?
Times lost for eternity?
I began imagining someone older than myself at the time looking back on life and feeling like something was lost. In a sense, I was grappling with how I would handle getting old and having the opportunities of youth pass. Would I sit in front of the TV (didn’t have internet then) and mourn?
Everything is changing so fast
You don’t notice as future becomes past
Just a moment that will not last
Changes in scenery, changes in cast
I add to that an observation – life changes quickly! I wrote this just after I graduated college, ready to start my MA program in Bologna, Italy. While thinking of that future, I also realized that a stage of my life was ending. I was leaving Sioux Falls and my college years. From where I sit now that was a tiny, distant portion of my life. At the time it was a quarter of my life since age 6! I was confronting the reality that life is full of change.
But it’s NOW, here and NOW
And that won’t change
It is NOW
No matter how things rearrange
Isn’t it strange
NOW lasts forever
Through all the change
NOW lasts forever
Through all the pain
It’s always now
Long and awkward, I think I imagined this as song lyrics with a tune. But I do recall being fascinated with the notion that now is the only time I ever experience. I remember the past, I anticipate the future, things change – but it’s always now. I know there have been books written about living in the present or embracing the now, but 22 year old Scott had never read any of those. To me this was a fascinating concept I wanted to explore in my head (and via words).
Screaming in the dark
Time won’t set you free
No escape, the door is barred
A prison called eternity
Trapped and never free
Lost in your memories
Much too afraid to see
That’s not how it has to be
Here I imagine a future, or a person, who is older, thinks their best years have passed, and wanting to spend time remembering. Part of it was me remembering my time at Augustana College.
I had an amazing four years there. I was MC of Frosh Varieties (the freshman talent show), I lost my virginity, I was engaged for the first time, I got a job with a law firm, I made really good friends, I drank a lot of beer, I had a 3.89 GPA, I went to the Republican National Convention in Detroit that nominated Ronald Reagan (though by the time I graduated I was already moving away from the GOP), I traveled with a friend to New York City, President of Pi Sigma Alpha (Poli-Sci honor society), and I met young Congressman Tom Daschle, as well as politicians George McGovern, Jim Abdnor and even Gerald Ford.
I loved living on campus, doing runs to Taco John’s. I’d offer to drive and people would give me their orders. After awhile the Taco John’s people started throwing in extra tacos for me (the orders were for 10 – 15 people sometimes). Bowling in the student center, going out, it was a great time. And it was ending. I didn’t now what was next. I could imagine missing those years immensely.
Because it’s NOW
Your chance to take control
Your chance to change it all
Create your life, create yourself
There’s no blaming anyone else
It’s all true, it’s up to you
Because it’s NOW
People say it’s important to take responsibility for your life, your choices, and your actions – even ones you aren’t proud of. That notion of not blaming others for ones’ own situation is good advice, but for me it was a natural consequence of the fact it’s always now. That’s what I learned writing this poem, I think.
If it was now when I went to college, if it was going to be “now” when I flew to live a year in Italy, if “now” would be my future, even decades later in rural Maine, a place I would have never imagined back then, then I always am in position to act – to create my life, and create myself. Nothing lasts forever except “now”!
I internalized that idea; I still try to focus on being “here and now” rather than losing myself in the past or future. And as I think about my life, the things that have went wrong and the things that have gone right, I feel like it’s simply a work of art I am still in the process of constructing. But it’s my work of art, my creation. I am responsible.
I know that I am part of a larger web of people and social scenery. Deep down I believe that all of that is really part of a larger whole, a one-ness that our space-time consciousness cannot fathom. I know I needed help along the way, and had to overcome unhealthy relationships and habits. People have been unfair, and they have been kind. I don’t discount that; still, it is now. I choose. I am responsible. Life is beautiful, a grand opportunity.
Of course, what about the pain, the exploitation, and injustices of the world? Is life really beautiful, or am I just lucky? That of course is a more difficult issue to confront!