A Valentine’s dialogue—Life is short, shelter relationship


Life is short, but how trite to say.

What do you mean?

I mean we say this but rarely think it through, which makes it trite.

What would it mean to untrite it?

Well, nobody really wants to sleep walk through their days. “Life is short” could be a prod for remembering the weight of things.

What things?

Relationships, friendships, kinships… 

You’re saying the importance of relationships escalates with age?

Not exactly, we experience them weighty whatever our age. Hell, think of your first love! No, what changes is internal—call it the intentional care and feeding of human connection, which, as one ages, can go either way.

Either way? You mean: life is short, so what the hell? or, life is short, make it count?

Yes, but that sounds hackneyed.

How should I say it?

Like this: either seek out your ice flow, or nurture authenticity and honesty over polished, deodorized, bull shit. Look, life is hardly static, we’re all somewhere along the beam, either moving toward a frozen existence, or toward some kind of meaning, some kind of beauty, that is both within and beyond us. And beauty, purpose, meaning, bud and bloom only within relationship—outside of that, they become pickled.

That seems slightly wise.

Maybe an insight of age…innate in a child, then shelved in the self-absorbing quest of actualization, only to return and be reckoned with, in time, or in tragedy.

And the reckoning? What’s it look like?

Well, I’m thinking about the relationships I’ve had over the years. All my failures, my neglect, my taking offense at perceived slights, the misunderstandings, my face-saving bluster, all my quid pro quo love…


They’re hazy, barely remembered, probably wrongly remembered.

What’s that about?

Self preservation, I suppose.

Don’t you want to excavate them?

It’s not about excavating, I wouldn’t know where to start, and I don’t trust my memory.

Yet you’re restlessness to graft yourself back in?


So what’s brought this on?

I guess, the way I now experience time…the sun’s setting brings compressed clarity.

What clarity?

I mean, too often, I’m still uncontrollably driven by the desire to fit-in-and-yet-be-noticed—which is a desire deep in all of us, and on its own, a lovely and noble desire, because it draws us to one another—but it’s so easily corrupted in our competitive, fear-based culture. Truth is, I still get sandbagged by envy and insecurity, and so employ the ratty old tools of posturing and pretence for a single approving glance.

So desire is divine, but our grasping screws us up, and life is about learning another way, but learning is hard and that’s why life seems short? Is that what you’re saying?

I guess I’m saying two things: Life is short—broken, lost or neglected relationships, where possible, should not be relegated to the ash heap of personal history. But also, life is short—no point flogging dead mules. There’ll always be dead mules.

So what do you propose to do?

First of all, give thanks for the perspective gained from being practiced in failure. Then, trust the sunset. Take these remaining years, care for them with out obsessing, be watchful, look for connection, look for healing, look for blooming, make a garden of each day, seek its gift.


  1. There will always be dead mules, yes. Some are just sleeping, it turns out, and sometimes this possibility is, in my experience worth pursuing. 🙂 But the main thing, like you said, is to look for connection, for blooming, for healing. Life is a mixed-bag gift, but it is a gift.

  2. So how did Valentine’s Day spawn this reflection?

    The sun’s setting brings clarity – I’ve come to avoid going to bed; it means one day less for me; missionaries “home on furlough” used to end their “slide presentations” with the picture of a sunset, and say that time is short ….

    But here in Saskatchewan we have regular opportunities to enjoy the sunset….

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