“And in a day we should be rich!” she laughed. “I’d give it to you, the pirate gold and every bit of treasure we could dig up. I think you would know how to spend it. Pirate gold isn’t to be hoarded or utilized. It is something to throw to the four winds, for the fun of seeing the gold specks fly!”
-Kate Chopin, The Awakening
I have loved this quote since reading The Awakening in college (the book featured in the introduction of my thesis) and it has been on my mind a lot in the last few days. I have been thinking about it as something other than a joyful statement advocating spendthrift behavior. I’ve been thinking about all the things that pirate gold is, in our lives, beyond actual gold.
The tiny things – tying cleats, reheating noodles, checking homework, driving to school on a rime-frosted morning, folding pajama bottoms – these are not things to be rushed through so that I can finally get to Life. They are life.
They are the gold flecks of life itself.
Only when we realize that these moments are the gold of life do we fully appreciate the gorgeousness of their flight. And, of course, the startling truth of their impermanence: what passes more quickly than gold flecks hurled into the wind?
I also read Chopin’s words, now, as an exhortation to spend, not to hoard: our time, our love, our energy, our spirit. It’s such a cliche, but I also grow ever surer of its truth: we only have today. So why save up for a future that is unsure? Certainly, one of the basic planks of my personality is frugality, and you’ll never talk me out of that. But I am aware of an instinct, in myself and in others, to sometimes hunker down, preserve, conserve. As though somehow our energy and love are zero-sum affairs. That may be true of energy, as I get older, but I’m sure love is limitless. By spending it we just see more gold shimmering in the sky.
So I guess what I hear now, when I read this long-loved passage, is this: throw yourself out there, as much as you can. And make sure you watch the incandescent gold pieces as they float by. If you blink, you can miss them. So watch.
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