Many years ago I happened to go a play. I heard a line that was so haunting and seminal that I never could forget it. Though it hasn’t always been consciously on my mind, at pivotal strategic times it seems to surface, I’d pull out the line and reread it carefully. “In the time of your life, live- so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to misery and sorrow in the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.” These are the words of playwright William Saroyan from this play, “The Time of Your Life.”
I guess one of the reasons this quote was so haunting to me was that his use of the phrase, “Time of your life” is not the usual meaning that comes to mind.
I remember the first time I comprehended his meaning I was taken aback. I recognized, though the words had a popular interpretation, his was much more profound and significant. Being young at the time, I was fortunate to be having “The time of my life,” exploring, learning, experiencing, enjoying. The play startled me to realize consciously that “The time of my life” was a finite time. I vowed, then and there, to insure the remaining times of my life would be lived appreciating while having the time of my life. I averred to have “the time of my life” during “The time of my life.” The odd thing is that in all these years since, I’ve never once heard anyone use the two phrases simultaneously like I had to myself. It seems so natural, so simple. Yet if I were forced to use my personal life experience to come up with a directive on HOW one should live one’s life, I couldn’t do much better than to advise living life so that you use “the time of your life” to have “The time of your life.”
Let me explain what I mean. It’s obvious the two identical phrases have two different meanings.
You go to an amusement park or rock concert to have the time of your life. That’s an experience, an invigorating, enjoyable experience. To live or exist in the time of your life, we’re talking duration, a limited span of time. When employing the first meaning the phrase anticipates a positive, exciting experience, the second usage may connote a somewhat depressing thought, reminding us that this life doesn’t last forever. I personally feel I haven’t truly learned two of Life’s important lessons if I haven’t come to comprehend the difference between having “The time of your life” (life enjoyment) and properly allocating “The time of your life” (the actual, infinite time).
Let’s explore lesson one first. What does it mean to have the time of your life?
Clearly each of us will offer a subjective opinion on what the idea commutates to him or her. As a Christian I’ve come to believe we’re each here to experience the time of our life. Optimally I should be able to look back on the time of my life with fond memories, to be able to admit, “Yes, I had my set of problems, my burdens to bear, but I also had many, many wonderful moments. I’d recommend this existence to anyone; life was worth the time I spent in it!” As to the subjective interpretation of “the time of my life,” I realize I must tread carefully. For example, my personal idea of having the time of my life is not that of living in a third world country as a missionary allaying the suffering of others. I have good friends, though, who are having their times of their lives doing just that. However, neither is traveling the world to ski the slopes on every continent my idea of having the time of my life, and it’s not just because I can’t ski. Again, I have friends for whom that would be their dreams. When I look back, I’ll freely admit that among the greatest times of my life were times spent exploring, learning, experiencing shared moments with others. I wish I could ask each of you personally what have been the greatest times of your lives.
Whatever you do, cherish them, remember them, and revel in them. And then expect there will be more to come. I’ve come to believe “You’re not really living unless you appreciate you ARE living.” Simply being awake through one exciting moment after another, without taking a moment to reflect, to truly experience and be to thankful for the opportunity, cannot possibly produce maximum enjoyment.