Just One Day

November 8, 2016
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A single day is just twenty four hours, which doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things. This axiomatic division of time defines our lives, separating our time on Earth into tiny bits that shape the way we live. The day starts at midnight, the instant the clock strikes twelve. The first few hours are dark and lifeless, save for the handful of unreasonable souls that remain awake. The things that still stir during this time will soon be won over by sleep, joining the ranks of those whose eyes keep shut. These hours don’t quite count, because hardly any record of them exists. All we know is that the hours have passed, purely because our clocks tell us so, as if we’ve hit a fast forward button and skipped through time. Night is full of the unknown, day is safe and familiar. This is why we fear the dark, why we kept in our caves and now keep in our homes when the sun goes down. We trust the day, so we rise and set with the sun, and let the myriad hours of the night slip through our fingers like so much water. The few that still stir are now rejuvenated by the sight in the east, strengthened by their life source, soothed by the safety that daybreak brings.The sun peeks out over the horizon, transitioning the day from unforgiving darkness to welcoming light. Dormant plants open their leaves to greet the warm rays, waking up with the golden energy the sun provides. Now in full force, the sun greets those brave little animals who peek their noses from their nests, and awakens the rest who still lie in slumber. This is the start of a day in the traditional sense, lively and loud and awake. This is when the day truly begins.

The day is young and full of possibility, a small piece of history anxiously waiting to be written. Perhaps it's the day a child is born, coming into the world with the rise of the sun. This baby is hurtling irrevocably towards his destiny and mortal existence. He is branded with this day’s date, wearing it as a symbol of his age for all his years to come. This day is the most important of his life; the day that marks his beginning. Perhaps it's a woman’s wedding day, the happiest day of her life. She's been waiting for this day for weeks, months, even years, planning out every second of her precious twenty four hours. She stuffs the hours full of activity, from dawn to dusk, trying to savor every moment she can. Although the day will leave much sooner than it came, she will keep it alive forever in her heart. This is the first day of the rest of her life. Or perhaps it's the last day for someone’s grandfather. As the sun sets, he holds his wife’s hand for the last time and draws his final breath. This is the heartbreaking but anticipated conclusion to his life story. In years to come, his son will bring white carnations to his grave on this day, and maybe shed a few private tears. Some days are like this, milestones that we impose great meaning on. And they are important, they are the few core memories we will cling to during our dark times. These pivotal times are pieces of our identity that root themselves deep in our souls.

Perhaps this is a day we would rather do without, a day that we wish we could pass over or skip through or go back and delete. Perhaps it’s the day your mother came home from the hospital with tears in her eyes instead of a baby in her arms. You wish you could forget that day, forget your mother’s brokenness as she lay on the couch. Perhaps it’s the day your pride got the best of you, and you lost a friend forever. You wish you could go back and slap yourself and change that day. Perhaps it’s the day you will toe the line at the state meet, sick with nerves. You wish you could skip past that day and to the celebration afterwards. We pray to our gods or make deals with the devil, hoping, praying, begging to avoid these times. We build these days up to more than they are, somehow manipulating our own minds and making ourselves believe these are times of Earth-shattering, life-ruining, immutable consequence. Some days like this will stick with us as well, weights on our backs reminding us of our failures and misfortunes. These memories join the ranks of the happy ones, rooting themselves like weeds in a garden of roses. They too will influence us for years to come, cautionary tales of how bad a day can be. But perhaps this day means nothing. It’s one of those days that’s been lived a thousand times over, stuck on repeat like a broken record. It becomes lost in the sea of its brethren, truly ordinary and utterly forgettable.

A day is merely one star in the great constellations of the heavens. It’s the building block of our lives, the small piece that makes up the whole. We will likely forget hundreds of the days that we live, blurring them together to form different eras of our lives. When all's said and done, no day matters. A single day means nothing on its own, but added together, those days start do to mean something. Our lives are defined not by a single event, but the sum of the whole. The pattern that these days form is the true meaning of our lives, not any of the pieces or anomalies along the way. Like Aristotle so famously said, we are what we repeatedly do. All the days we cherish, fret over or even forget are all just droplets in the flowing river of time.

Far away on the western horizon, the dying rays of the sun are eclipsed by the spreading blanket of darkness that slowly envelops the world in its shadowy embrace. The day draws to a close as mothers tuck in their children, plants close up their leaves, animals scurry back to their underground homes. All at once, the sun’s light leaves the last reaches of the Earth, and we are once again bathed in darkness. Deep in the mind of a sleeping child, neurons send thousands of electrical impulses that store the important moments of this day and delete the rest. The memories it chooses will live on as the record of this day. When he wakes, he will be left with only a fragment of that day, a piece that joins together with thousands of others and make up his existence. The hands of the clock gently tick away the last few minutes of the day. It’s almost over, this chapter of history is draws to a close, confined to its twenty four hours. In a short while, the sun will return, waking the Earth once again and starting a brand new day.

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