This Magic Moment

In Kevin Kim’s excellent book Water from a Skull (which I will be commenting on in greater detail as time permits — meanwhile, follow this link and buy a copy), he quotes Mark Salzman’s book Iron and Silk, in which kung fu master Pan Qingfu says “live each moment as if it were your last.”

Kevin’s book is fascinating, and I have already learned a great deal from it, but this aphorism, while not without a certain dashing appeal, is simply not good advice. If nothing else, you’d never have any groceries in the house.

I offer this instead:

“Live each moment with a conscious awareness of its proper context.”

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  1. Or:

    “Live each moment as if it were your last — but buy your lunch just in case.”

    Posted September 3, 2007 at 6:25 am | Permalink
  2. Kevin Kim says

    Thanks for the shout-out. The link to my book probably doesn’t work at the moment; there was some sort of screw-up over at CafePress (this is the second time it’s happened; very frustrating). It ought to work soon (i.e., in hours or, at most, a few days).

    I couldn’t tell whether you were being facetious in your post. I think a charitable interpretation of Master Pan’s advice would require a bit of unpacking: “Live every moment with the same level of mindfulness and depth that a man who knows he is about to die experiences.” Warrior wisdom for sure.

    The advice itself isn’t unique to Master Pan, of course; it’s pretty much pancultural, I think. A couple years ago, I saw one blogger’s reply to similar wisdom: “Yeah, so I can go around smashing windows and looting, right?” Smartass.

    All y’all be smartasses.


    Posted September 3, 2007 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Quite right you are, Kevin, and mindfulness is indeed the point, which I was careful to preserve in my own version. (I’ve actually been meaning to email you a few thoughts that arose upon reading your chapter on mindfulness.)

    I wasn’t trying to be facetious, really (one of only two words that I know of in English, by the way, that have all the vowels in order), just striving for clarity.

    I certainly was not being facetious in recommending your book to one and all. Readers should buy a copy as soon as the website is back on its feet.

    But yes, a smartass sometimes am I.

    Posted September 3, 2007 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says


    Yes, that would solve the problem neatly.

    Posted September 3, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  5. Kevin Kim says

    re: a, e, i, o, u


    I remember reading about them somewhere. Is there another one?

    Thanks, by the way, for supporting the book. I sincerely appreciate that.


    Posted September 3, 2007 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  6. We have a very funny comedian over here who always ends his spiel with: “Live every day as though it were your last – because one day you’ll be right!”

    Posted September 4, 2007 at 9:01 am | Permalink