How to measure a life is the question that the characters in the film version of the Tony Award winning musical and acclaimed movie “Rent” ask, as they try to understand their existence as poor, starving and struggling artists living amidst poverty and the AIDS epidemic of the early 1990s in the East Village of New York City. The characters wonder if a year of one’s life can be measured just “in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter and in strife.”
Perhaps it can be measured in another way — measured by a powerful force that defines various aspects of life, like having coffee with a friend, laughing with children or comforting someone who is in pain, a significant measurement that carries and sustains people minute by minute — that marks and binds each moment in our hearts and souls.“How about love?,” suggest the characters of Rent. “Measure in love. Seasons of love.”
A few weeks ago, we celebrated Valentine’s Day. During that time, there was a societal pressure to measure the amount of love we had in our lives by how extravagant our gifts were: a dozen roses, a box of chocolates or an expensive dinner. Is that really how we should measure the love in our lives?
If there are 525,600 minutes in a year and the average person lives for 78 years, that means we have around 40,471,200 minutes to live out. How will you measure your life? Will it be the number of cups of coffee you enjoy?
Maybe it should be the relationships that are deepened while enjoying the cup of coffee. Will it be measured in the bridges that we burn throughout our lifetime? Perhaps it should be measured in the number of times we offer forgiveness and mercy to others despite how they treat us.
Perhaps the most important way that our lives could be measured would be in the love that we share for ourselves, for others and most importantly, the love we share for God.
We journey through life without noticing that love is surrounding us despite the pain and misery we feel. A quote from Hugh Grant’s character in the movie “Love Actually” offers us a glimpse of hope:
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is …that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion … love, actually, is all around.”
How will you measure your life?