New Perspectives: Day-Tight Compartments! by Rev. Heather McCarrel

photo by Zachary Keimig/Unsplash

In the spring of 1913 Sir William Osler, a Canadian Physician who was one of the founders of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, addressed the graduating class at Yale University with such a memorable speech it still echoes to this day.

In his speech titled, “A Way of Life” he advised the graduates to adopt the “… practice of living for the day only and for the day’s work.”  By using the example of an air tight ocean liner that steadily sails the seas at twenty-five knots, he concluded we each would journey life safely if we lightened our load by not carrying regrets of yesterday or worries about tomorrow. He warns that “… the load of tomorrow, added to that of yesterday, carried today makes even the strongest falter.”

His suggestion is that we focus only on the “… life lived in the now in day-tight compartments.”

This phrase, “day-tight compartment” has become a mantra for me; repeated often as a reminder to not borrow sorrow from the past or to think up troubles in the future.  However, it seems to me that even Sir William Osler would agree that we need to plan for the future, everyone has deadlines to meet.

Often my work of today is to prepare the next Sunday’s sermon, or the next month’s preaching series.  We all must look ahead to be prepared for commitments and deadlines.  I wonder if the difference lies in preparing happily for that which we have some control but not wasting our present time in worrying about that which we have no control.  We often waste valuable time worrying over situations that only happen in our imagination.

Let us be of good cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never happened.” (James Russel Lowell).

Poet Kalidasa penned this beautifully …

“For yesterday is but a dream,
and tomorrow is only a vision,
but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
and tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day!”