Sometimes I read something that sounds like good news. Kenneth Burke once wrote, “We might get he truest slant on ourselves by thinking of our lives as first drafts, as hastily organized essays that we never have a chance to revise.” (Civic Jazz: American Music and Kenneth Burke on the Art of Getting Along, Gregory Clark)
I like that thought. Every day is different. I am different. The people I am with are different. The historical context is different. Change is the only constant and so each action we take is new. We are constantly trying to figure out how to make sense of our life and how to fit into world in which we find ourselves living.
And so, this is the first draft of an essay that we can never revise because life moves on and the next situation will be new.
I think this is why grace must exist. First drafts are often full of mistakes. We can’t always say or do the best thing. We are trying out ideas—some of which work out pretty well and others are disasters. But, tomorrow is a different day and if we are to live without the burdens of mistakes from yesterday, grace must exist. Forgiveness has to be there to free us to spend our energy on today’s problems without exhausting ourselves trying to rework what might have gone wrong yesterday.
And the truth of Mr. Burke’s statement also points to why it is important to live mindfully. Pay attention to your life as you are living it because that life will never be lived again. What is happening with the people you live with and love now will never happen again. Your relationships at this moment are the material with which you write the story of your life. You don’t get a chance to revise it.
Grace and mindfulness. Important gifts because living is always about writing first drafts.