Today, in the midst of organizing and cleaning the computer room, I pick up a slim volume. It’s destined for either the bookshelf for keeping or the Crystal pile for donating, and I’m in a ruthless mood to purge. I consider its fate, flip a few pages in (there are only 41), and my eyes fall upon this passage:
“I offer ‘a way of life.’ ‘Undress,’ as George Herbert says, ‘your soul at night,’ not by self-examination, but by shedding, as you do your garments, the daily sins whether of omission or of commission, and you will wake a free man, with a new life. To look back, except on rare occasions for stock-taking, is to risk the fate of Lot’s wife. Many a man is handicapped in his course by a cursed combination of retro- and intro-spection, the mistakes of yesterday paralysing the efforts of today, the worries of the past hugged to his destruction, and the warm Regret allowed to canker the very heart of his life.”
A page or two beyond, I spy this:
“Let the limit of your horizon be a twenty-four hour circle. … Waste of energy, mental distress, nervous worries dog the steps of a man who is anxious about the future. Shut close, then, the great fore and aft bulkheads, and prepare to cultivate the habit of a life of Day-Tight Compartment.”
Oh, it’s a timeless message, spoken so very long ago, extolling the virtue of living in the moment, neither mourning the past nor hurrying the future. Those words were written (spoken, actually), for an address delivered to Yale students in 1913 by William Osler, a Canadian physician and one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital.
In this slim volume, Osler requested the inclusion of the words of 5th Century Indian Sanskrit poet Kalidasa:
Listen to the Exhortation of the Dawn!
Look to this Day!
For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course lie all the
Verities and Realities of your Existence.
The Bliss of Growth,
The Glory of Action,
The Splendor of Beauty;
For Yesterday is but a Dream,
And To-morrow is only a Vision;
But To-day well lived makes
Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
And every Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!
Such is the Salutation of the Dawn!
Grateful for the reminder to look to this day, not to yesterday or to tomorrow, for a life well-lived. My father obviously treasured this book. I can do no less. It will stay on the bookshelf because its wisdom transcends the years.