Thread: Life as it is
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Old 03-03-2013, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Enchanted View Post
I believe thinking about death is not pointless. It tells us our time is limited. It gives us a perspective.
Perhaps, but to me it makes me wonder how valuable that perspective is to our daily lives.

I can spend hours trying to get into the mindset of a squirrel, trying to understand the nuances of his existence. At the end of the day, I am no further to any goal that will help my life any for that understanding.

Death is an inevitability (for most of us) and whatever perspective there is to be gained by perceverating on it will not help us change that.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything ó all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. 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.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and thankfully I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma ó which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Perhaps it sounds flippant, but I dont plan on dying. An iteration of that quote that I'm partial to is "live as though you'll never die" and its definitely an undercurrent in my thinking.

I'm used to facing the idea of dying in a much more visceral way. I have no experience with disease but I've had a life-long habit of doing stupid things that could have very easily ended in death, in no small part due to my own assurances that I wouldn't live to see 25.

Death itself is not frightening, rather the manner of death is what unsettles me. Maybe I've read the Hagakure one time too many, but the idea of dying a sedentary death disturbs me the most. I think were I to face the idea of something like cancer, I would do something to make my own end rather than wait for some last final, slow breath laying in a bed in some sterile room somewhere with bright lights and beeping ushering you out.

If I meet my end, it will be fucking glorious.

I admire Gilgamesh for his quest (may be in his case quest is not the right word). It seems to me he was arrogant. StillÖ he wanted to improve his situation. There was also a group of people similar to Gilgamesh known as Alchemy. Iím not sure whether they were arrogant or not. One version of story of Alchemy was they were also seeking immortality like Gilgamesh. Thanks to their quest today we have a wonderful world of Chemistry.
Oh he was hugely arrogant but he was also terrified as well. The idea of death really scared the hell out of him.

Iím not interested in immortality. But I do want to have a meaningful life. Am I moving forward or circling around like a boat without radar? This is the very question bugging me since the death of the gentleman.
The very fact that you're asking that question suggests you're in a better position to fulfill that than you would otherwise be.
I am as direct as a T-Rex with 'roid rage and about as subtle. It isn't intended to cause upset, I just prefer to talk plain. There are plenty of other people here who do the nice, polite thing much better than I can. I'm what you'd call a "problem dinner guest."
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