Tag Archives: Happiness

Farewell: an ode to all those moving on (short story)

*This is an Iowa State Daily column by Ian Timberlake written for graduates*

Just past seven in the evening, the sun is making its departure and its warm rays blanket your body as your fingertips tickle the tall grass. Monstrous, white clouds pock the bluebird sky, casting intermittent shadows across rolling fields of flora swelling in the breeze.

You inhale just as a breeze blows by, taking in a thousand flowers and the scent of a spring morning rain. Dense woods in the distance percolate the soft soil you trod so lightly, barefoot, feeling the dirt, pebble, and grass groom your feet.

A lone cherry tree, atop a cresting hill of grass gives way to some vivid pink blossom with every firm breeze. You slowly, joyously, stroll through the grass and up the hill, making your way towards the cherry tree, not quite sure where you are or where you’re going. The hill stretches on upwards, seemingly growing, making you realize you misperceived the majesty and illusion of this hill; With every step, the cherry tree looms larger, broader.

On top and out of breath, you bask in the shade of this cherry tree, completely absorbed in its greatness. The wind now tests your foot and drowns out the song of birds from below. You place your hand up to the tree and look up, admiring its wonder, slowly strolling around its base grazing every aged crack juxtaposed with its smooth bark, stepping over the roots sinking deep into the Earth.

“Where am I?”

Stricken with a smell, your attention is stripped from the cherry tree as if pulled from a dream. A smell so distinct you can taste it under your tongue. It tastes rocky and bitter, like a dry sweat after an afternoon of yard-work.

“What is that?”

You dismiss it and lean your back up against the cherry tree, sliding gracefully down to a seated position to, only momentarily thereafter, have a cherry blossom fall to your lap.

You stare at it awhile, as if it was looking at you… looking at you with the same wonder you look at it. No judgement. No prejudice. No ridicule. And no expectations. Just inquisition. Just curiosity.

Eventually you pick up the cherry blossom, feeling its silky smooth pedals, its flutes with globules of pollen at the end, its delicacy more than a vase. Bringing the blossom up to your nose, you smell it, but it doesn’t matter because you’re already sitting under the greatest cherry tree of your life. What were you thinking you’d smell?

You remember hearing once that cherry blossoms were edible. Looking at the beautiful flower resting in the palm of your hand, you grimace. But…

“What the hell”, and you eat it. A light, and comfortable taste washes across your palate. Nothing too strong or specific, too crunchy or too soft. Smiling, a happy taste, if that means anything. You laugh.

A gust of wind blows through, you can feel your hair disarranging, but you don’t care… you get a quick shiver down your spine. You taste the bitter in the air again, almost thwarting the happiness of your recent cherry blossom. More inquisitive now, you look over your shoulder and around the tree trunk.

Now, with more attention paid and curiosity gathered you notice a slightly larger hill a good stroll away. This hill was just tall enough to block your view of what lay beyond, it was connected to the hill you sat on by a smooth, grassy loft.


Standing up, you look around, doing your best to admire where you are, and somehow, take-in your surroundings, and begin your stroll across the loft. slightly down and slightly up to the top of this bigger hill, still barefoot, still taking in deep breaths of flowers, still closing your eyes and admiring the sounds of the rushing wind over the faint bird chirps. The bitterness gets stronger, the wind grows to be confused with a rushing ocean.

You crest up and over this broad, grassy hill with the cherry blossom far to your back.

Awe struck, you say under your breath, “My… That’s a big ocean”.

You look down the now sandy hill at the long, white beach, and see a washed up rowboat, made of wood. It was of chipped white paint and faded red trimmings. In no time, you sink your feet into the warm sandy dune, towards the rowboat, saying nothing less than a smile.



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Where Do Humans Get Their Life Value? Life and Death… I Can Tell You.

It is a very basic question to ask, one that I don’t believe very many people question that often… if ever. Where do we get our life value? This is a separate question from ‘what is our purpose’, which is more of the root question. But when you ask about strictly “value”, you get into a hotbed of all sorts of ideology. “Who are you to judge me and put a value on my life?!” You might say. Fair enough. But who are you to not question it about yourself?

I’ve asked this question to several friends of mine and they all seem to spit out the same answer; family, friends, and religion are pretty much the exclusive three responses. But this still isn’t going deep enough (inception anyone?). Jokes aside, the value of your life is NOT family, friends or religion… because I could see someone in the world living a very happy life without any of those three items. So I’ll ask you again, what is the one true thing in every single human life that makes everyone worth something?

And no the answer is not that it’s different for everyone. The answer is time, or lack there of of it. Seems simple and mundane and almost cliché which is why some of you probably stopped reading after the end of that last sentence, but hear me out.


Everything great in this world, EVERYTHING, is great because we die. Am I being pessimistic, no, I’m being the opposite. Think about it on the extreme side. If we were impervious to death, what would be exciting? Where would the value come from in accomplishing something great when you virtually have an unlimited amount of time to accomplish it? What would the level of love be towards your family if you knew they were always going to be around? What about looking back on years past, you wouldn’t be able to quaintly remember the carelessness of your childhood or the years of your college prime because the aging process would not exist. Exist, that’s a funny word, because without death, all you would be doing is existing… instead of living.

Time is the currency of life. And that cannot be refuted.

The reason we have value in our lives is solely because our head is ‘on the chopping block’, so to speak. Because our time is limited on this planet means that every decision we make will unequivocally alter the path and the final position of our lives. It doesn’t mean that there is no room for mistake in your decisions, it just means that every decision is an important one… even the ones that seem terribly mundane like if I should ride my bike to work or drive to work. Or if I should call that girl I’ve been thinking about or wait. Or if I should apologize to a friend for borrowing his book without asking.

Obviously, religion is a huge factor in how people view life and death. For many religious, the purpose and meaning of life is to worship the lord. Which is a completely valid purpose if that is what you believe in. On the other hand, atheists and agnostics believe that they are more at peace with knowing there is nothing after death. To them, it puts more worth on life itself because the end of life is more (shall we say) “final”. Which brings my argument to greater light… humans, in general, find worth in life the more they realize time is against them.


Take a terminally ill patient, for example. How many stories/movies/books/magazines/tv shows/etc. have you seen that depict a terminally ill patient going out and having the time of their life? The list is endless, I think the show House probably has 15+ episodes with just such a story line. Why do people have the urge to go out and make something of their life? Because they have a heightened sense of imminent death. Can you imagine what you would do with your life and what you might accomplish if you had such a heightened sense of imminent death? It would be unbelievably rich. The time you spend with your family, friends, partner, would be beyond simply love. Everything exciting you do would be infinitely more cherished. The little things in life would already mean more to you than ever before.

Every person has stakes in the game of life and it all revolves around the time you have on Earth. Every person believes in their own reason or purpose for existing but until you understand the value of it and why the value of your life only exists because you will eventually die, then you might as well not have a purpose. If I were given the option to live forever, or even simply to live well into the future, I would politely decline; It would suck the value out of the actual living part of existing. Death is more connected to life than anything else, so live it up, and make yourself worth something. So use the time you have such that when you get to the dying part of life, you’ll be able to look back and say, “yup, that was worth it”.

Please, leave a comment if you agree or want to share your views on where we get our value.

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