The Simplest Moments Make This Life Worth Living

Read PT 1 of this story.

The Nights by Avicii bumped in my ears as I wandered through the streets of Lisbon’s Príncipe Real district.

I couldn’t shake the profound emotions that the song evoked in me.

We have one life to live, and it can slip away in the blink of an eye. How, then, do we live a life that’s truly meaningful?

Meaning is derived differently by everyone, but I think we know when we’re living our truth, and perhaps that’s where the deepest sense of meaning comes from. It feels as if we’re in our skin, with our thoughts, on this earth for a reason.

I believe we are, yet the world can be a confusing place.

It can make us feel alone.

I’ve found that it often just takes lending a word of encouragement, a helping hand, a smile, to find out what our reason is. If nothing else, we’re here for each other.

Our inner compass will guide us on the journey of our lives; it will nudge us, it will speak to us in feelings and emotions.

For me, I need to roam — day after day. My curiosity leads me out the door; life opens up when I follow it. I crave the feeling when I slowly but surely begin to understand a place.

That’s happening with me in Lisbon.

I drifted past bustling restaurants and bars, past human beings enjoying life in the garden, those closing up the Saturday street fair in the day’s final rays of light. As I did, I wondered what the words behind The Nights truly meant to Tim Bergling, known as Avicii.

Bergling appeared to have it all, yet he took his own life in 2018. I couldn’t stop thinking about how the words are more than catchy lyrics, but a sincere grappling with the meaning of life.

These thoughts didn’t bring me down, but fueled my passion to seek my truth in earnest. The music gives me the inspiration to continue opening up my heart.

To see people as people.

To cherish every step of this journey.

Living a fulfilling life doesn’t need to come from living a life like Avicii; only a handful of humans alive will get that opportunity, and of course, it’s a life that a rare few would actually want.

For me, it’s honestly the simplest things which fill me with light. Maybe he just wanted to feel like a stranger in a town again.

Perhaps he just wanted to get lost, and no longer could.

One of the unique experiences in Príncipe Real is visiting Embaixada, an eclectic shopping and arts center in the revitalized 20th-century Ribeiro da Cunha neo-Arab Palace.

A beautiful dining room fills the central chamber of this three story complex. I moved slowly through the main entrance, appreciating the gothic stairway in the low light and the faded blue frescos covering the walls.

On the second story, I was lucky enough to catch the concluding day of the Welcometoart Art Gallery.

I stopped to enjoy the modern, colorful art hung on wine-red walls — not only of that which was right in front of me, but from across the chamber, through the marble columns and archways, from the floor above and then below.

I simply love color, and this dramatic room spanned the spectrum — rich purples and deep blues, striking red eyes which jumped off the canvas, subtle yellow hues.

I cherished every step of this experience, and left the palace feeling vivified.

After about ten minutes of walking down the main drag of Príncipe Real, I passed the entrance of a used bookstore. It looked dusty, antique, like a place with a story where stories are told.

I took a few steps past and backtracked to peer back in.

“Come on in!” came a voice from behind me. A jovial man with a few bags in his hands sauntered through the door, and I followed with a smile. The store was slim with a main room filled with books.

The main room led to a small office in the back, where a rotund gentleman sat behind a stack of disheveled books. He wore dainty spectacles on his nose, had grey, wispy hair, and held his face a few inches from the book he was reading.

The man who came through the door said something to his father, something that made them laugh.

“Montaigne,” I remarked, as I picked up the wrinkled book with the French thinker on the cover. “He’s my man.”

The son continued smiling as he put his things down. The father continued to read.


“Yes,” the son said, “he has much to teach us, wine and cheese and all of that.”

“How to remain oneself,” I replied smiling, flipping through the pages.

“The English books are in the front, on the shelf. These are Portuguese and French.”

“Do you have anything in English on Camões?” I asked, wanting to find something to help me learn more about the 16th-century Portuguese poet.

“I don’t think so,” he responded, “that would be a rarity. But you should read this one.”

He handed me a thin volume by Wilfred Owen, the British WWI soldier and poet famous for his war poetry. The book had Owen’s poems in Portuguese, side by side with the poems in English.

As I read, another man entered the room, clearly another son — a family run bookstore; I knew I was somewhere good.

“You guys must be brothers,” I said, looking back and forth between them.

“Yes, and he’s the Godfather,” the first brother replied. They began talking amongst themselves as I continued perusing, chuckling throughout as a familial ensemble. It was almost dark outside so I left the shop as they closed up and followed.

We talked outside for a moment about my staying in Lisbon; I told them I’d be back. They joked about my necklace, and perhaps wondered why I was there. I love when that happens.

“Muito prazer, Vincent,” Pedro, the first brother said, nice to meet you.

I met a Portuguese family of two brothers and a father; they showed me books on history, and I shared in my own way who I am and what I love.

There was nothing particularly special about this stop in the bookstore — yet it meant something to me — energy created where there was none before.

The father didn’t speak any English, yet I could feel the dynamic between them as they laughed. They were jokesters; they were close; they were family.

The Godfather
The Godfather

I strolled through the quiet streets of the Campo de Ourique neighborhood and then stopped in the lively Praça Luís de Camões to watch the world go by.

Whenever I’m out, I usually stop across the street from my hostel to take in the city from the Miradouro de Sāo Pedro de Alcântara. A fair had been constructed in the park for the last week, culminating now on Easter weekend.

The smells of pulled pork sandwiches and sausage, tapas and prosciutto wafted through the air. This meat-centric pop-up felt like a party under Italian lights, which were strewn from tree to tree and swayed with the wind.

Jewelry and artwork, sangria and cervejas were sold as well, making it a place to lull away the day and night as the colors, the lights, the energy of Lisbon shifted down below.

I leaned upon a tree, listening to a man playing the electric guitar, singing Tainted Love in a low, raspy voice.

Families and friends filled the tables under the lights; they began to clap to the song. It was subtle, as nobody wanted to go all-out and cheer for the performer.

He smiled and bopped around, seeming to appreciate the effort by the Saturday night crowd. This put a smile on my face.

This afternoon felt like me, full of exploration, introspection, and love; I met new people and finished the night under the lights, listening to music.

It really is the simplest things that make this life worth living, those that we may all enjoy — the sun on our skin, the wind in our hair, the ability to breathe deeply, the feeling of love, the sound of music.

Like Anthony Bourdain, another major influence in the world and an inspiration of mine who took his own life, perhaps Tim Bergling just wanted to watch the world go by, yet felt that he had lost the ability to enjoy that simple pleasure.

His music has changed my life profoundly, as I haven’t stopped thinking about the lyrics and all that goes along with them. This world is full of so much music, so much beauty, so much light.

We seek these things from the world, as we seek them from ourselves. But perhaps we don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to find them.

We don’t have to change the world to be them.

They are there, without and within, especially in the simplest moments, meant for us to share.

Castelo de São Jorge in the distance, taken from the Miradouro de Sāo Pedro de Alcântara.
Castelo de São Jorge in the distance, taken from the Miradouro de Sāo Pedro de Alcântara.
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