It’s a relatively quiet uneventful Thursday morning. A morning where I spent the major part studying for the upcoming exams. (Or how I would like to call it studying). While engaged in the quest to find missing notes and cram as much of the content as possible into memory, I came across an audio recording of a live lecture on my phone – almost two hours long. I had recorded it in the hope that it would be helpful when preparing for exams but unfortunately, it couldn’t actually serve its intended purpose. It did, however, in a strange way stir up an alien yet familiar emotion of longing for a past – a longing to go back to the day of that lecture.

The emotion is familiar because it’s a longing for a past, a universal emotion that we would feel at least once in our lifetime. The alienness of the emotion stemmed from a longing for a past that, at immediate inspection, doesn’t seem that remarkable or special.  So then what was so extraordinary about an audio recording of a lecture, that was apparently about ecological succession, that made it so sentimental?

The emotion emerged not as a result of listening to what was being taught in that lecture (no surprises there) but everything else that was to be experienced in it. The echo of the lecturer explaining the lesson bouncing off the walls of the hall, the occasional sound of a cough mixed with the sound of fluttering pages of notebooks, punctuated with periodical laughter as the lecturer would make a witty joke. But there’s also everything that could not be heard from that recording – like the sound of pen tips being driven across bleached paper, the quiet yawns made secretively, hushed whispers of friends trying to ask each other for notes, and the loud and vivid daydreams of those whose minds wandered the realms far away from the lecture and the lecture hall.

The subsequent realization that I had forgotten to appreciate a very central aspect of my university life and the beauty that it possessed hit me with a deep sense of regret and loss. Though generally mundane and uneventful, the opportunity to even be present in one of those halls and to be able to listen and learn is an immense privilege. Being able to do so free of charge is a privilege greater still. Just being present in those lectures deserved at least a few moments of appreciation and gratitude – towards myself and to those who made it so that I could enjoy that opportunity. The opportunity of being part of something so hallowed and sacred: the passing down of knowledge – the act upon which our great civilizations are built.

Our lives (spoiler alert!) are not that special.  At least not in the grand scheme of things. In our desire to seek out fulfilling moments of ecstasy, chasing the highs of extraordinary days, we run past the mundane and the ordinary overlooking the beauty that those moments can still offer our lives. We also forget that most of our lives are made of such moments and to ignore these and deny them an amount of acknowledgment is to disregard the majority of our existence.

One of the biggest regrets people voice out while on their deathbeds is having worked too hard and too much and forgetting to pay attention to the salient aspects of their lives that deserved their care and regard – the little things and small pleasures, like the conversations with family and friends, the quiet walks along streets, the delights of good food and drink, a roof over one’s head and a warm bed.  In constant pursuit of what’s scarce in our lives, we overlook what is already in abundance. In doing so, we sacrifice our own contentment, our happiness, and ultimately our peace.

As we amble through life, we could do with reminding ourselves – on occasion – to stop and smell the proverbial roses.

Only then can we truly appreciate being alive.


Featured Image: generated by DALL.E 2

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