It’s almost Halloween here in the United States. And that means the news, blogs, and reading suggestions are going to inevitably involve death in some way. This is something I’ve been thinking about more recently, though, without regard for the time of year.
Not that I’m depressed or anything; quite the opposite.
But in my process of learning to make the most of every day, I’ve stumbled upon some philosophies of death. Also, a quote from Steve Jobs in a book on marketing for artists, written by Austin Kleon (side note: I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone trying to break into a professional, creative field). The quote has a place there; but I’ll come back to that afterwards, because this post is inspired by a few things, not just Jobs’ words of wisdom.
First off, an article on The Week. “Remember that you will die” by Bonnie Kristian. In the article, Kristian spends a lot of time talking about memento mori, an older practice in remembering death. This seems like something that would have been practice to keep folks humble. It’s something that we may want to bring back now. Humility could help settle some conflicts. But that’s besides the point.
She talks about this in a way that it would help us “reflect on how you are living now: If life is fleeting, it is all the more important to use it well.”
That’s something I can get behind.
Another piece of inspiration on the topic is a dialogue from Alan Watts. He was a philosopher that gave a “harsh reality” mirror to a lot of Western thinking and practices. The dialogue regards the question, “what if we wake up when we die”. Now, this might come off as slightly cynical. But that’s now how I look at it. Listen to his talk below and see why I have such an optimistic view about the message.
If life is a dream, then all the harm that goes on, it doesn’t matter. All the frustrations, anxieties, horrors, none of it contributes to the way that life continues.
If life is a dream, you get to live it how you want. Make the most of it. Do this, because like a dream, life is fleeting.
And that’s where the Steve Jobs quote comes in.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
I’d like to call this the “upgraded carpe diem”. One that is a little more sensible, but still with the feel-good qualities and an avoidance of overwhelming regrets. So, yes, normal life can be terrifying. I know the feeling well, being someone that has dealt with social anxiety for years. But life goes on.
You have the choice to sit back, scared about what may happen, or push forward, conquering your fear, and make something that you want happen.
Go ahead. Life is too short to let everything pass by, controlled by a need to stay in a comfort zone.
Don’t dwell on death, but remember that it does not discriminate, so you should make the most of the time you have. Don’t stick to a job if every day is the worst day. Don’t stay with someone if every day is a struggle just to avoid an argument with. And don’t stay in a place that you feel is pissing away your time and efforts.
Life will take care of you as you need it to, though it may not look exactly as you intend.
It’s time to live, not just survive.