Focusing on our own mortality could be a very helpful technique used to breathe spirit into our daily lives. Boredom and laziness are not part of a healthy human being-ness; they represent a spirit so covered up with societal expectations, media garbage, and lack of questioning. Curiosity, wonder, and satisfaction from daily work are what every human soul craves. I think we slip away from these blessed states when we “forget” that we will soon enough die.
Human attempts to conquer nature are as old as humans, almost, and death has not escaped our cross-hair. Pills to make us live longer, research into DNA to see if we can reverse the aging process, and freezing ourselves are all attempts we have made to escape the seemingly inescapable. So far, no luck.
We don’t seem to want to die, and we try to avoid it in more subconscious ways. Leaving a legacy is one of the most common thoughts of dying men and women: “What will I leave to my kids?” “How will I be remembered?” “Can I make a donation to get my name on a wall somewhere?” The curiosity, wonder, and helpful attitude endemic in human being-ness is often buried as we try to make ourselves feel whole and complete through things such as money and status. We will never be good-looking enough, rich enough, or popular enough to avoid the same death as everyone else.
Curiosity, wonder, and that helpful attitude in humans brings about joy and progress. The best scientists, reformers, and performers of any kind have all stated that they were never motivated by money, but rather by passion to learn and discover how great they could be, how far their could go, or how real they could make their dreams. So what does death have to do with all of this?
First, let’s look at direction. The closer one comes to truly realizing that they will die, the more valuable their time on Earth becomes. You probably know when you meet someone who has had a near death experience, as they often change their entire life course, usually to go on and encourage others to follow their dreams. That should be a big enough give away right there, bucko. If you can really spend twenty minutes trying to visualize what your last hour on Earth might feel like, it very well may make your heartbeat increase as your head becomes flooded with lots of questions. The big things to pay attention to are “I should have,” “I would have,” and “I could have,” as one who faces death must truly wonder “what if I just did what I thought I should do?” “What if I was the spouse, sibling, child, me that I always envisioned, rather than giving into my excuses to not be that person?” Curiosity runs abound. Things that you “have” to do start to lose footing…you might see that what you have to do is actually what you really, deep down, want to do. From the second we are born, our time is ticking. We only can begin to live once we realize what we’re actually doing here is dying.
Next, consider the strength of living a life of principle. “If nothing is worth dying for, then nothing is worth living for.” If you believe that your race should be treated fairly, great. If they are legally treated as secondary citizens and you say “hey stop that!” and the government says “No, shut up or we’ll kill you,” and you respond “Oh, well…that’s that,” you’ve just decided that hanging onto life is more important than your principle of equal treatment. What would a life look like where nothing was worth giving up your life, though? You would essentially be clinging to life, trying to safeguard it, not giving your all for your principle in fear of losing it. This is a shame because you are going to lose it anyway.
Coming to terms with one’s own mortality leaves one powerful in the face of fear. This is useful because sticking up for principle can be quite scary. But consider that some of the most effective men and women in history were fearless. “I know I am going to die, so why give up on my principle?” Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Socrates were all people who faced serious consequences to their well-being because of their curiosity and dedication, yet it never fazed them, even though it did end up in some of their deaths. Those people were full of life, and maybe realized that since they will certainly die one day, the only way to die is to die doing exactly what they believed they should do.
Finally, if you are going to die tomorrow, your neighbor taking your parking spot really isn’t going to cause you to spend fifteen minutes brewing over what an inconsiderate penie-head he is. Some might say that if we are all going to die tomorrow, “we might as well go commit crime, steal, rape, pillage, do drugs, etc.” Over and over, this is shown to not be the case. I just talked a guy who was in an area that suffered serious emergency flooding. He said he was astounded at the way people came together to help one another. My friend Jonny Boy told me a story about people in the Twin Towers, who stayed by strangers in wheel chairs, unwilling to abandon a fellow human being. Stories like this are a dime a dozen, pal. When death is imminent–which it is, if we choose to acknowledge it–there is less room to screw over your fellow human being. If I have two hours to live and so do you, I’ll probably ask you if there’s anything I can do to help, as we see ourselves as travel companions here on Earth making our last wishes.
Do you think Gandhi or MLK, Jr. ever said “I’m bored?”There is so much to do and learn here on Earth, and tomorrow isn’t promised. We will die soon, and we could die in our sleep tonight.
What do you want to see, know, have accomplished on your last day on Earth?