I had settled in for a short period of time, nestled against a dimly lit lamp post only a few feet from the busy street. The crowds continued to pass by, with all walks of life mingling together. The sound of laughter could be overheard routinely and smiles were in abundance. Everyone was enjoying the sights, sounds and charm of Beale Street, one of the most famous streets in the south.
So many different characters, yet it was one particular duo that caught my eye. They came strolling by with a sense of happiness and carelessness that I was not familiar with. To top it off, they were wearing flowing capes and masks covering a portion of their faces. They looked like the superheroes of Beale Street. I quickly raised my Fuji X-Pro 1 and attempted to capture one shot. For those not familiar, the X-Pro 1 is a slower focusing camera with little room for error. If I had time to switch it to manual mode I was certain I would capture this moment, but i did not have the time. However, the one image I did manage to fire…was in focus…and worked.
I glanced down and gazed at the image for a moment. That’s when I encountered a guy named Matt. He was around the same age as me and seemed to share a similar interest in photography. He asked if he could have a look. I hesitated for a few seconds but finally said okay. I hate to show images straight from my camera without at least making some minor adjustments, but for some reason, this felt okay. I had no idea how much Matt’s insight into my image would impact me, but impact it did.
He stared at the image for a few minutes, then slowly glanced up at me. With a grin on his lips he simply said, “memento vivere” – and with that, handed me back the camera. It was obvious from the puzzled look on my face that I didn’t follow the Latin phrase very well. Matt put his hand on my shoulder and clarified it for me – remember to live.
As Matt walked away, I couldn’t help but stare at the image on the small screen. His words confused me at first, but the longer I gazed the more they made perfect sense. I had initially thought that the “caped crusaders” were nuts. The best I could figure they were either immature and irresponsible or they had lost a bet. From my own life experiences and fears, I could not see the bigger picture. I could not see the joy from within. I had forgotten how to embrace life fully and how to enjoy the small moments. I had forgotten how to live.
Memento vivere – remember to live.
I chased Matt down and asked for a moment of his time. He gladly obliged. I immediately began to talk about the words of wisdom he left me with. I talked about how they impacted me and helped me see things a bit differently. I rambled on until I was politely interrupted. “You are missing something even more important,” Matt gently advised. Now, I was very curious. I followed up with the typical inquiring comments and we talked for close to an hour. In the end, Matt was right. I was missing something of vital importance.
We concluded our time together with a handshake and the exchange of a slight nodding of heads. Matt slowly disappeared into the night, meandering his way through the crowd until he was just a memory. I slowly turned and made my way to a quieter location. Matt’s wisdom was sinking in. You see, what he showed me was that it’s not enough to simply remember to live. You need to have something in your life that makes you remember this…makes you want to do this…makes it impossible to do otherwise. For some, that’s spirituality. For others, it’s a person or maybe a hobby. Yet for others, it’s a combination of things. Though we are all different, it doesn’t change the fact that we can each just as easily lose sight of how to live. Life gets in the way. Things happen. Hurt ensues.
I now had a goal. I had direction. I had things to go figure out. I just wish I could find that silly grin that Matt had. For him, it was simple. Turns out he met this amazing nurse from “up north” as he called it. He disclosed how life was a blur and chaos seemed to rule the day. That is, until her. Matt had found his key and he wasn’t ashamed to tell me all about it. He would talk about her beauty and her laughter and how amazing she was. He would recount the moments together and how they made him come alive inside. It was apparent his heart was no longer in his chest, but beating in the hands of someone else.
We all need to be like Matt. We need to find that one thing that fuels us so deeply to live. That creates within us a passion to be a bit crazy and enjoy life. Something that might just have us putting on a cape and mask and walking down the middle of a crowded street, laughing and enjoying the stares.
In the eyes of another, Matt had learned the most important thing: memento vivere – remember to live.
How about you?