A Blip in Time: The Transient Nature of Life

We live in our secluded worlds, our phones, our houses, apartment buildings, and every day rush through the door, down the stairs, and about our daily lives. It is incredible that many of us do not know the very neighbors around whom we live. And yes, I am guilty. As an introvert all my life, it is something that rarely occurred to me when I was younger. But I regret not interacting with my neighbors now that I’ve gradually come out of my shell a bit more now.

In my building, there is an elderly lady who lives alone, across from my apartment. I’ve said my hellos and how are yous and in middle school once asked whether she wanted to buy any sweets for my school fundraiser. That is about it. For the first time today, I had the opportunity to help her with some groceries, and she invited me inside. 

The commonly held notion of “old people” is that they ramble on about their times, the good old days, meandering words that seem arbitrary and people say/think “What is he/she even talking about?” Because we never take the time to really listen. If you listen closely, it is usually always about the aspects of their past that they are most proud of, their accomplishments and their kids’ accomplishments, and so on. And what I noticed today is that it is an attempt to retain the life you had – the life you lived. It is an attempt to retain a sense of dignity and pride when you are at a stage of your life in which you’re incapable of or feel deprived of “dignity” and a fulfilling life brimming with activity. It is an attempt to grasp onto those memories and accomplishments when you live every day with the knowledge that at any moment, you will expire and all of it will be gone. 

Lately I’ve been becoming more cognizant of the transient nature of life. I mean, really aware. Not just understanding the mere words, the mere concept. The extent to which the entirety of our individual lives are merely one short life in the midst of time. In the pages of history, we are all but merely just a blip in time. 

When we’re on the threshold of being/starting a new stage of life where everyone and everything changes, it all seems to be happening all at once: getting a job/starting a career, getting married, starting a family and all of that – at the same time seeing your parents/grandparents age. Right now for those 20-somethings my age, it feels like we’re already getting older and haven’t accomplished enough, but at the same time it also feels as if we have so much time left, like we are just beginning to really take on life – yet the older generation must have felt that way too when they were our age. But time crept up on them before they knew it. One generation withers away while another generation replaces it, over and over and over again throughout history, for all of humanity.  

Listening to my neighbor made me realize just how much we neglect the elderly – they who are testaments and witnesses to history and to a life lived. We neglect their words. They hold such rich histories within them, such rich stories – like a treasure trove of memories. And I think acknowledging them is so essential, for the sake of being human, and for the sake of recognizing what such a transient existence means.

4 thoughts on “A Blip in Time: The Transient Nature of Life

  1. I’ve been thinking about death the past few days. Started with news stories, and articles on medical experiences. Especially on painful accidental deaths (Judy Melinek’s Working Stiff) … It’s like, all of a sudden, my self-satisfaction doesn’t matter. All the fun I had, the great achievements I am striving for, are gone, as am I. What is left then? In terms of meaning. Actual meaning of my time and effort. Even the people I affected and helped in some way, will die. So my charity will not last either. Another human’s opinion really doesn’t affect me in the long run. If this is the case, what will give me meaning. Whatever it is, it has to be eternal. It has to have the power to affect me. To sustain me in my state of bliss. To reassure me my meaning.
    And slowly I started putting my goals in perspective. I’ve always kept mortality in the back of my mind, but recently there has been a deep evaluation of why I do what I do. Yes I make money to support myself and my family. But how else should I live to please this eternal source?

    You know, I have a desire to publish my fictional writings. To be read and admired. To have an affect on other people’s life through the writing. But whose approval am I seeking and why? How will recognition from other humans sustain me? They don’t even have control over themselves. Am I serving them in this endeavor? Or should I be serving the eternal source we call Allah? Yes, maybe I should be serving him to such an extent, that praise for my work matters little to me. Maybe I should work hard for him, market for him, and be content with the outcome that He inspires.
    If that should be the case, are fictional stories really my optimum service to Allah? Or should I spend more time in service to my immediate family?

    And that is where my thought process is right now. Juggling my personal ambition, time, and existential conclusions. Because once I am in your neighbor’s shoes, I want to be assured that my real and witnessed self, is close and pleasing to our Originator.

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I really appreciate it.

      I definitely understand why you would feel that ultimately in the long run, the joyous moments of your life, your personal ambitions and the good you have done is fleeting and therefore pointless. I don’t think you have to think about it in nihilistic terms, however. Those moments, even fleeting, not only should be appreciated for their own sake in the moment, but they also build up to shape the person you become. The good you have done for others, I am sure they appreciate you for them; even though it was momentary, you were able to make someone happy or provide relief for that moment in time. And that is enough.

      And yes, ultimately of course, this is not our final destination, we were meant for another world. But I think the key is to find a balance between juggling the dunya and the deen, because Allah did not mean for us to sacrifice the dunya entirely. I think if you would like, you should definitely publish your works. If you have honest intentions behind them, there should be nothing wrong with that =) The way I think of it, utilize the talent Allah has given you to serve Him. Good can be done through the pen, as well, after all =)

      Hope you find some solace and clarity insha’Allah!

      1. Thanks 🙂 .. your last paragraph sounded a lot like a commentary I just saw today in the new Study Quran, under the Fatiha verse “the straight path” . Check it out, its visible in Amazons sample.

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