January 30, 2019 — To live every day as if it were your last?

How scary can a horror movie be at 30,000 feet? I had wrongly assumed that being sealed in a steel tube and traveling at 500 miles per hour would put all that shaky camera work and suspense in perspective — right? Suffice it to say that I had to ask the cabin crew to please leave my reading light on. You may scoff but there was an incident that involved talcum powder footsteps around the bed that will haunt me forever.…

So a few days ago, on a return flight, I carefully avoided the scary stuff and settled back to watch the Richard Curtis movie “About Time” — a light British comedy in the genre of Hugh Grant. This time I had to plead with the cabin crew to keep the lights off. I was moved. Actually, I was a blubbering wreck! 

At face value this movie looked harmless enough. Our protagonist, a young man called Tim, has inherited an unusual family gene. While most of us inherit distinctive noses or ugly feet, Tim’s genetic bequest from his father is the ability to travel in time. In C.S. Lewis fashion, this happened by Tim ducking into closets and closing his eyes. He would then re-emerge at some desired event in his family history.

Tim’s initial jaunts in time are amusing — the opportunity to recapture a lost kiss at a New Year’s party or supply the perfect pick-up line to the beautiful girl. These made me laugh. It was Curtis’s exploration of family life, love and friendship, celebration and grief that really caught my heart and made me wonder: If we could walk in and out of different chapters of our lives and edit out our mistakes, what would we rewrite? Conversely, surveying life’s rich tapestry, would we have the courage to rationalize that some life lessons are only learned in the crucible of pain and loss?

Of course, this is all somewhat academic. While the movie, even at 30,000 feet, had the power to momentarily suspend disbelief, should I walk into a closet and close my eyes nothing much is going to change. Save that my family might conceivably lock the door behind me. But even without the benefit of time travel, there were some things that I could do when they eventually let me out.

Tim’s father cautioned him not to use his gift for fame or wealth. Instead, he advised him to live as normal a life as possible every day, but then (and here’s the trick) to relive that day a second time. On the second time around, ignoring all the stresses and strains, one is free to appreciate all the little things: the kindness of a stranger, the humor in the moment, the simple goodness of being with someone we love, the discovery of new friends.

Tim scrupulously practices this rule, but then perfects it when he decides to cut out the “second day.” To simply live every day as if it were his last — because, said Tim, “all we can do is our best to relish this remarkable ride and remember that we are all traveling in time together.” The psalmist had the same revelation when he wrote, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24).