M.J. Higby, Contributor
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson
Steve Jobs once asked the question: “If today were the last day of your life, would you want to spend it the way that you’re about to?”
If you sit in a quiet place and think deeply about this question, it becomes scary, yet liberating. Scary because one day everything we love and everything we’ve become attached to will cease to exist through our eyes. Liberating because realizing this fact motivates us to contemplate how we walk in our daily lives.
For most of us our life story seems to become, slowly and imperceptibly, one that is mass-produced, like a product off of an assembly line. We are born and we grow into playful toddlers filled with a vast imagination and endless laughter. As we continue to grow, we’re told to study hard and long.
The world has become more competitive and this competition dictates that we put in the time necessary to ensure our success and survival. We get a safe secure job, not so we become wealthy, but just so we don’t become destitute. We are endlessly bombarded with commercial after commercial; pop up after pop up showing us the illusory, bullshit image of success. We buy that image with our dollars and credit cards thereby enslaving ourselves to pay it all back. In the process we lose touch with ourselves, our deepest desires and our sense of freedom.
We start a family pushing those same values on to our kids while we continue our own close-minded trajectory trying to stay within societies norm. Most of us walk the path of our lives, guided more so by avoiding what we don’t want than by moving towards what we do want. We move away from pain but not necessarily toward pleasure. And, as Tyler Durden, the protagonist in Fight Club said, “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.”
The fortunate part of the story of our lives is that we are the authors. We have control over how we spend our time. No matter how hectic our lives may be, we can always find some time throughout the day, whether minutes or hours, to take that first step in liberating ourselves from the daily automation. That first step is to think deeply and feel viscerally the fact that one day you will cease to exist.
Once you’ve visualized this and you feel that sensation of fear coursing through your veins, your mind will instantaneously grasp hold of what’s important in your life. The visions of those that you love most will appear vividly. Your passions will speak loudly. Those plans to travel across the world to the destination that you’ve always dreamed about will take shape. The masterpiece that you have a craving to create will start to manifest its outward expression.
Once the sense of urgency takes hold, the next step is to put these thoughts on paper. It’s easy to become passionate in the moment, however, when the moment passes we often go back to our daily sleepwalking habits. Putting these thoughts in writing allows us to go back repeatedly to visit and visualize that life that we want to live. If our goal is to spend more time with our kids, write down what needs to happen to make it so. What most of us will find is that what we really want is time. Time to indulge in our hobbies, time to exercise, time to meditate, time to socialize, time to be alone. It’s also important to become aware of what prevents you from doing these things and to write down the necessary steps to eliminate it.
The last step is to say, “Fuck it!” Make it a priority to start living the life you’ve visualized on a daily basis. Is writing a book your goal? Write a little bit every day. Does your “fuck it” list involve an MMA fight? Book the fight and start training daily. Does it involve leaving your phone at home and getting lost in the wilderness for a week or a month? Set a date and make the arrangements. Do you want to reunite with your childhood friends? Send them a text with a concrete date for a night out or a week of debauchery. Have you been thinking about dropping that grudge you’ve been holding against a friend or family member? Take the steps to drop it. The important part is to take action, no matter how small it may be. Scared to take that action? Then do it scared.
As I sit alone in the woods writing this, the campfire starts to die. It seems to grasp for the last breaths of its life as the embers alternately emit and cease to emit flames. Eventually the fire stops occurring and only the glow of the embers remain, though no less mesmerizing than the flames that once raged. Are we like this fire? Our ideas, once a raging inferno that paralleled our breath, but with time the flames, our breath, occurring no more while our ideas and deeds like the embers, burn on? Meditating about death will cause us to contemplate the deeper questions about our own life. Through visualizing death, we will find our own purpose and what it means for us, individually, to be alive. As a result, our lives will take on a much greater meaning and we will no longer wait for the proverbial right time to start living. We’ll come to the realization that the time is now. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. As the saying goes, hooray for today, fuck tomorrow.
About the Author
M.J. Higby practices medicine in Phoenix, AZ. He is passionate about martial arts, most notably Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He enjoys writing about mental, spiritual and physical well being and questioning the methods by which we attain it. You can reach him on Facebook and Twitter @MJHigby
This article (Death as an Advisor) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to M.J. Higby and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.
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