This was Hemingway’s advice on writing, but it works for advice on living an excellent life as well.
I went home for lunch today and had a bite of watermelon while thinking about this quotation. As I was trying to really taste it like Hemingway suggests, I bit my tongue. (I won’t try quite so hard next time.)
Hemingway’s advice is that we should live a more engaged and aware life.
“Try to be alive.”
What does it take to NOT sleepwalk through our days? How is it that we seem to be programmed to be numb and only those who have simply awakened to the full technicolor, surround-sound experience of life shine as artists and enlightened souls? (Young children have this by nature and most of us lose it as if that’s the price to pay for becoming an adult.)
We all fear dying, yet we should be afraid instead of not living while we have the chance. Life after death is a mystery, but life before death… that should be our primary concern every day.
The creative life is a bit of an antidote to the numbness. It’s why people write and make art and sing songs and post thoughts on the internet. Your effort to capture and express your unique human experience is like telling your consciousness to send out scouts to the present and bring back prizes of delight and insight and even pain.
The intention to express yourself can awaken you to see what’s around you so much more clearly. Don’t you know a photographer sees a different world than most of us. He’s looking intentionally at the world, hoping to find something worth expressing. If we all thought of ourselves as artists, even if we never share any creative output, we might all live a more awake and aware life. It’s a good reason to start a creative habit, to begin journaling or painting or learning an instrument or building web sites or making movies.
The challenge is to inhabit the present moment as often as you can, to live deeply while you’re still alive and to taste the sweetness and, sometimes, the bitterness of the now.
But be careful not to bite your tongue.
Everything you need to know about life can be learned from a genuine and ongoing attempt to write.