When I landed in Brisbane on my world cycle, I was met by a couple who were old friends of mine from back when we all lived in Africa. They put me up for the night and the following day, the husband, an avid cyclist, pedaled the Gold Coast with me; a route he traveled daily on his way to work. It was two months later, somewhere in Croatia, that I heard this friend had been hit by a truck on the very same road we had cycled together. I messaged his wife. He was in still in hospital, but had come out of his coma. ‘It’s such an irony,’ she mused. ‘Here you cycle the world through crazy countries like India and nothing happens to you, while he cycles the same road to work every day, and this happens.’ I agree to the extent that I almost feel guilty for having made it around the globe unscathed. And I think, the world is indeed full of irony.
There are the basic ordered laws of the universe, on which everything goes round and round, and our lives follow with comfortable predictability. We like to think we have some semblance of control over our lives, or that some greater power has control. That we can make sense of the things which happen, that there is some greater purpose for it all, a reason for suffering and pain, something to justify the imbalances we see in the world around us. We want to feel safe, secure against all inevitabilities. We construct for ourselves world upon worlds of illusion in which to bury our heads like the proverbial ostrich.
Till the day something random is thrown into the equation that we are totally unprepared for and never could have predicted. The day we realise that, for all its order, the universe is full of chaos and we can plan for nothing. That one day you’re on top of the world, and the next you’re face down in the mud. That the higher you rise, the further you fall and there is always someone waiting to push you down. That life is not like the movies, you rarely get what you wish for, and when you do, it isn’t what you really wanted. That shit happens, people never get what they deserve, and all the karma in the world won’t change the fact that no matter how much you “do unto others”, they never “do the same unto you”.
And waking up to this realisation is the beginning of happiness, because then you stop expecting and start accepting. When nothing can surprise you, when you can take everything life hits you with and smile because, well, ‘that’s life’; you begin to see everything in a humorous light. The world becomes one big laugh. It’s the greatest release. No more stress. No more anger. No more taking personal offense when things happen that you don’t deserve. You are serene. You are untouchable. You can start to live in this wonderful, random chaos called life, appreciating every moment, the good, the bad and the ugly; reveling in what simply ‘is’. Because the only sure thing in life is that nothing lasts, including life. In all our many uncertainties, that is the one irrevocable certainty.
If you discovered you had just a month left to live, you would probably do all those things that you once feared to do, because what’s the worst that can happen? You’re going to die anyway. But the truth is, we are all dying. From the day we are born, time starts counting down towards that one inevitability. All we have is time. And what is time but an illusion? All that really exists is the eternal present. The sooner we realise this, the sooner we can stop holding on so tightly to what we think we have, stop hoarding towards an elusive future and start going about the business of living in the present. Because that’s all that really exists. Now. This moment. Yesterday is past and no longer exists, tomorrow hasn’t happened yet and therefore does not exist. Only today exists. Today is the only day we will ever live, so today is the best day ever.*The Best Day Ever was the philosophy of a close friend who died while living his bde.