I couldn’t help leaving the movie theater last night wondering why any of us choose to live life waiting for something to happen, as opposed to living each moment to the fullest.
The film was Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the high-society editor of the French Elle magazine, who suffered a stroke at age 43. He awoke from a coma with "Locked-In" syndrome, having complete mental functioning in a body paralyzed from head to toe. All he could do is blink one eye. His speech therapist spelled out the French alphabet and "Jean-Do" blinked once to indicate the next letter in what was his only means of communication with the outside world. He lived in this condition for 15 months, during which time he dictated the book The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, which was published 10 days before his death.
Bauby wrote in the prologue: "Through the frayed curtain at my window, a wan glow announces the break of day. My heels hurt, my head weighs a ton, and something like a giant invisible cocoon holds my whole body prisoner. My room emerges slowly from the gloom. I linger over every item: photos of loved ones, my children’s drawings, posters, the little tin cyclist sent by a friend the day before the Paris-Roubaix bike race, and the IV pole hanging over the bed where I have been confined these past six months, like a hermit crab dug into his rock."
Feeling like a diver trapped in a steel helmet, being lowered into the depths, Bauby also used his imagination to be a butterfly struggling out of a cocoon, now free to just be.
The most extreme situations bring out the best in all of us, because we are warriors at heart. Put a young mother in a life-or-death struggle for the safety of her child and she will fight to the end. Put a writer on his back with nothing to do except think, and you will get a memoir, a full-length motion picture and story that will haunt us for decades.Driving home from the theater, I couldn’t help but wonder why all of us don’t do much more with the time we have available to us in our lives…with minds that think, with bodies that move, with souls that connect us with what is truly real. Many of us struggle to get through the day, and then we anesthetize ourselves with [fill in the blank] before falling asleep.
Clearly, there are those among us who are awake, who seize the opportunity and make the most of their lives. What is the difference between those people and the rest of us who just struggle to get up in the morning and survive the day? Why do so many of us wait until something catastrophic happens before we grasp for life and truly live?
I can only speak for myself. It seems to be easier to just slide from day to day, not really caring whether something happens tomorrow or a year from now. It seems easier to not take responsibility to make the most of why I am alive…now. It seems easier to stay asleep than to be fully awake.
But what if that is an illusion, just a false belief? What if it is so much easier to be awake? What if it is so much more rewarding to be living like there is no tomorrow? What if my soul came into this body with the clear intention of shedding illusions and false beliefs? What if the reason that I am alive now – and you are alive now – is to wake up from struggle and fear and treading water and running in circles and repeating ourselves and going through the motions?
What if I choose now to live with purpose?
What if you do? What would you do differently? And more importantly, how would you be?
I don’t know if you can feel it yet, but our souls are stirring awake. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, we are emerging from a deep sleep. The birthing pain is causing us to recoil, but that cocoon is no longer our home. We are standing here free…free to move…free to act… free to be. We are no longer suspended in darkness. We are bathed in more light than we’ve ever known.
And it is time. Join me now in stretching our wings, flying as if for the first time, knowing that we are truly alive.