For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
–“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” T.S. Eliot
J. Alfred Prufrock, the voice and subject of the poem, always cuts me to my core with this stanza. If you want to create an existential crisis for yourself, consider how you measure your life, I mean, how you really measure your life. Not what you idealize, or fantasize about measuring.
On a bad day, I measure my life with shallow breaths and rapid pen clicks.
What is it that I want to measure my life with? Now, that’s a different question altogether. I could wax eloquent on that, but my ability to actually measure is predicated upon pulling myself out of the grip of the mundane.
The mundane can be all-consuming. We measure our lives in the trappings of the daily routine. If we let it, the mundane becomes the yard stick to quantify our experience—the metaphor for the unexamined life.
The more we measure our lives in routine, the less we see of the other dimensions around us. The longer this goes on, the faster time flits by as we walk listlessly through a robotic existence. Next thing we know, we’ve traced another pencil line on the door—another birthday passed, another child grown taller.
It takes something ardent to pull me from the grip of ennui. What’s needed is an awakening—a flash, a jolt, a soulful experience to startle me back into living: vibrant living.
It takes vibrant community—an impassioned plea in the form of a caring word, or a loving look. It’s a powerful sleepiness that can overcome me and threaten to keep that community at bay.
On a good day, I measure my life with brightened eyes and belly laughs; with humble words and grateful looks. On a good day, I measure my life with redemption.
What do you measure your life with? I mean, what do you really measure your life with? Beware, if you choose to answer, a crisis may be right around the corner…
Your fellow, sleepy traveler,