Someone recently asked me “what are your favorite things.” Ha ha ha! There is no answer to this question that would do it justice. I love the first few minutes after sunrise when the air is still, the sun golden, and the fog lifts off the trees. I love the feeling of a jet lifting off the runway to take you to a place you’ve never been before. I love the feeling of a job well done, or a business deal that went off without a hitch. I love sitting naked in a hot springs in the wilderness under a billion stars. I love pulling a hot pan of brownies out of the oven. I love the rotor wash of a helicopter when it sets down right next to you. I love a down sleeping bag, a full oxygen bottle, and a thermos of hot Tang. I love a friend you can trust with your life! I love the last few steps of a month long ascent to a majestic summit. Not the last few steps where you are still climbing, but the very very last ones, where you are turning to look back at how far you’ve come and the sky just falls away below you.
I love the way a sailboat rides on anchor in a windless cove. I love the hum and grind of the cables on a ski lift. I love the smell of freshly excavated earth when you are digging a foundation for a new home. I love the rush of cliff diving. I love sex so wild and free that it makes you stop to laugh out loud in astonishment. I love campfires. I love music that tells the truth. I love old maps and new sails. I love woodpiles, haystacks, and gold coins set aside for a rainy day or a long winter. I love warm gun barrels. I love alpenglow, and the sound of a mountain stream at night.
I love a sharp pocket knife. I love a chainsaw that starts on the first pull. I love a house I built with my own hands. I love the first smell of frost in the air. I love the feeling when you crawl out of a plane crash and realize you’ve only got minor cuts and scrapes. I love the sound of a coffee pot percolating. Love watching children play with no worries in the world. I love fearless and kind people. I love the look in someone’s eye when you rescue them from danger, and I love the look in the rescuer’s eyes when they rescue you from danger. I love the way a jib sail pops when it catches the wind. I love the smell of teak wood. I love secrets whispered in the night. I love the way the wind whistles in pine trees, but flitters in aspen trees.
In the space of only a few quick seconds you can deeply and thoughtfully take in the things you love. You don’t have to plan it out, or change your schedule. All you have to do is give those things that you love a place of sacredness in your mind. Then when they find you, you will always stop what you’re doing, grant them an audience, and soak up that moment. This is where the life well lived is found.
We don’t have any memories that are longer than about 3 seconds. Think about it. Recall your most precious memories. They are not lengthy narratives. They are just short 3 second clips, and that’s all. They aren’t even strung together into something bigger. Each cherished moment from your past is just that — one single moment. And it’s all alone in its own file in your mind.
Some people become distraught when they realize that these 3 second mental clips are all they have saved from their lives. But this is not a reason to fret. It is a reason to celebrate. Our conscious minds need to accept what our subconscious has known all along — that the good life happens in the 3 seconds you take to honor the beauty of life wherever it finds you.
I’ve been tortured. I watched them torture my codefendant until he slit his own wrists. I’ve spent years in isolation units. It’s like being buried alive in a tomb. In fact, my seven foot by nine foot windowless solid concrete cell, with it’s solid concrete bed that looks like a coffin, feels eerily similar to a mausoleum. Once when I was a boy, I peered through the key hole into a mausoleum and saw the concrete casket, there in the center of a seven foot by nine foot solid concrete room. It was like it was removed from time. It gave me chills. All I could think about was what it would be like to be stuck in that little tomb, sitting on that concrete bed, watching the world go on without me.
Perhaps my little 9 year old spirit sensed what my future held for me. This experience is the most extreme form of loss on Earth. The only thing I haven’t lost is my integrity, and those 3 second memories of a life well lived. Knowing that I still have my honor keeps me strong. And all those 3 second clips of joyful memories keep me happy. Without that, I could never have survived being locked in this tomb alone with myself for all these long years. My honor is immensely precious to me now. And those fleeting 3 second memories have become little golden treasures hidden away in my chest.
The pages of history hold many legends of Kings and Pharaohs who were buried deep in stone tombs with their precious treasures. Who would have thought I would be buried with my treasure, and in such a way as this? As you pass through time, the sacred beauty of life will approach you along the way. And when it does, you should stop and pick that moment up like you just fond a little golden coin. Put that little 3 second treasure coin in your chest and keep it there forever. One day — when it’s all you have — it will sustain you.