At the end of Lord of the Rings (I'm thinking of the movie here, not the book), while Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry are sitting around drinking ale at the pub, there is a bittersweet quality. Why? Because their quest is over, and because there is nothing in life which can compare from that point forward to what they have already been through. I suspect that they would wish to be back in the action, fighting the Dark Lord. Of course, when fighting dragons (literally and figuratively in the book/movie), they were terrified. Back then they were terrified partly because they did not know how things would turn out. If they had known how well everything ended, they probably would have enjoyed their whole quest it a lot more. In that scene, they can only enjoy it retrospectively, and that's just not the same.
A lot of times what keeps us from enjoying life, is our worry that things will turn out badly. And I have to admit, sometimes they do. But a lot of times life turns out well, and we need to learn to live in the moment and enjoy it while we have it. If we enjoy the moment, then in one sense, things have already turned out well. And if we don't enjoy the moment, then in one sense, things have already turned out badly.
Remember the movie Dead Poets Society? Robin Williams plays the role of a prep school teacher. He talks to his students about previous students that have gone off to war and died:
John Keating: They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.
This scene makes a similar point, whether things turn out well or turn out badly,we need to seize the moment and use it, feel it, experience it.
Here's another more recent quote from the Media, from the TV show Harry's Law:
Harry: (Tommy takes Harry by the arm and pulls her into his office) What? What are you doing?
Tommy: (pulls up a chair for her) OK. You need to listen to me. (closes his office door) You're not having fun. You need to be having fun here, Harry.
Harry: Fun? A man's life is on the line. If I lose he might be put to death.
Tommy: Even so.
Harry: Even? Tommy, what's wrong with you? You think is all cause for amusement?
Tommy: I think you're 62 years old, I'm in my 50's, and it won't be long until you're the woman who used to Harry Korn, and I'll be the guy that used to be Tommy Jefferson. You hear me, Harry? We're not far from our 'used to be' years. Right now, you're in the game. The world is watching. A man's life is in the balance and you're right smack in the middle of it. (sighs) This may be the most irrelevant 15 minutes you'll ever know and, trust me, you do not want to wake up 10 years from now and say 'My God, why didn't I savor it?' So, yeah, it's pressure. Yes, there's stress but savor the moment because tomorrow we could be yesterday. That's what I'm saying. (Harry nods)
Perhaps it is not a tragedy if things turn out badly and we didn't enjoy the path to getting there. But it would be a tragedy if things turned out well, and we didn't enjoy our way there.
Carpe diem readers.