A voyage without return

This could be the last time you hear from me. Not because I’ve decided to quit. Not because I’m taking a vacation. It’s just that I could walk outside and be struck down by some whim of fate.

Yesterday, I was updating my commons with notes from Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet and I came across this beautiful passage:

“So when one stands in a cherished place for the last time before a voyage without return, he sees it all whole, and real, and dear, as he has never seen it before and never will see it again.”

As far as we’re concerned, right now could be the last—or one of the last—moments in which we can see, hear, feel, taste or smell. It could be the last time we get to see a blue sky. To hear the wind. To do something for someone other than ourselves. 

Does that possibility enchant you? Or terrify you? Does it not make you—for the time that you can hold the possibility in focus—see things differently, with a different intensity?

Try playing a game. Whatever you do today, imagine that you’ll only see what you see, hear what you hear, sense what you sense, once. You have just a single chance to experience each moment before it is lost to the past and diluted by memory.

Exactly how that scenario would alter your attention and experience, I don’t know. But I can guess: it would compel you to be more present, to inhabit each moment more fully and with more of your self.

But this game, this psychological trickery, is dulled by overuse. I may be wrong, but I think it’s too much of a burden for us to load the experience of each moment with such intensity. Like sprinting, seeing in such a way can only be temporary. We cannot maintain such an illusion, unless we believe it’s not an illusion at all. Unless we believe, with every molecule of our being, that this truly could be our last chance to experience this moment.