Monitor Board of Contributors: Life in the eternal now
I think it started with hearing a performance of Handel’s Messiah.
A summertime performance isn’t burdened with thoughts of snow and Christmas obligations. More room is allowed to listen and absorb. Sitting on the amphitheater floor I was surrounded by the hallelujah chorus. The words swirled around from a thousand voices as the entire audience stood and sang, “Forever, and ever and ever.”
We all mixed with the organ, the orchestra, the chorus and the night air blowing lightly over us with open arms.
As I walked home, the words walked along with me. Though I have heard them many times, this time they seemed to linger with me in a different way.
Forever and ever and ever. They got me thinking about the idea of “forever.”
Forever. It is one of those things that you just know, like breathing or walking or listening to music. But given more than a moment’s consideration, I began to wonder about a fuller meaning. I always thought I knew what it meant, but did I really? I had never taken time to comprehend the implication of its promise.
I started with what I knew to be true.
Forever is the traffic light at the corner of North Main and Centre streets in Concord. Forever is that moment between when the elevator stops and the elevator door opens. Forever is the lake breeze blowing against my face as I write and the rhythm of waves along the shore. Forever is sitting open mouthed in the dentist chair while they scrape that stuff off my teeth. Forever is how long it will be before there is consensus on how best to move ahead on plans for downtown Concord. Forever is when I close my eyes and listen to Beethoven.
My life, it would seem, is really full of many little forevers. They carry me along from moment to moment like notes on a page of music, words in a book, or steps along a path. Though they might be glimpses endlessness, it is the very fact that they do come to an end that makes them so rich.
Forever is the moment I am in now that I would like to last for just a little longer. It is that moment of weightlessness when the roller coaster peaks before the drop or when a jazz pianist sustains that rest for an extra beat. They are moments of magic that are completely out of our control but that we invite ourselves into.
Then, there are those other ways of looking at forever. There is that idea that forever is how long I am supposed to live after I die.
I know it is supposed to sound blissful and heavenly and make me feel good about dying and all that, but considering the practical side of this gives me the chills.
We made a trip up to the Montshire Museum in Vermont not long ago. Among the exhibits was Sue, the bones of a Tyrannosaurs rex, who roamed the earth 67 million years ago, give or take a million. I am still trying to get my head around the idea of the earth 67 million years ago.
I look at that assemblage of bones called Sue and flash forward to me. What about my bones, what about me? Forever would put my bones and me still out there hanging around for, well, forever. Endlessly forever. Sixty-seven million years and still going strong is really more forever than I feel entitled to.
The concept at least helps me understand why for some people, nuclear waste isn’t really a problem to worry about.
Maybe it is because I am getting old enough to actually think of myself as getting old that I find myself having thoughts about these things. Forever is looking pretty good when the span you know as “future” is narrowing.
But you know, I don’t think I really want that kind of forever. I just would like to have a little more of now.
Maybe I will discover in the end that forever doesn’t really exist as anything more than a concept. Maybe there are just a bunch of little forevers that stream together to make life interesting. They populate our days, our weeks, our minutes, our lives. They are the moments we exist in and move on from. They are the hallelujah chorus in July and floating on lake water blue as sky in August.
Sometimes I wish they would last longer. Sometime I wish they would end sooner. But when I am in the middle of them, they are at that moment, forever, and ever, and ever.
(John Gfroerer of Concord owns a video production company based at the Capitol Center for the Arts.)