“One of the illusions is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly until we knows that every day is Doomsday.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I guess the entire world was a bit shocked this past Wednesday. Steve Jobs, ladies and gents… the man, visionary business leader, entrepreneurial archtype… has left the building.
The entire world is shocked, but they shouldn’t be. Because death is the one true fact of life.
People joke that death and taxes are the only certain things in life, but with some hacker ingenuity and a good lawyer, the taxes part don’t really apply.
Memento Mori – Remember You Must Die – is the one mantra I live by these days. I have it on an index card which is the first thing I see every morning on my desk.
At first glance, this looks like a negative thing, but it’s really not.
Death gives definition to life. Without it, life means nothing.
And it can hit you any time, anywhere. There’s no moment too boring, too placid or mundane for death’s bony finger to poke you in the face.
We spend our lives scurrying, scrambling trying to avoid the fact of it.
It’s the only fact. And no matter how hard or how fast you try running from it, it’s always with you. Never farther than a breath away.
But through our magic toolbelt, equipped with ninja-tools named Avoidance, Distraction and Denial — we somehow manage to forget the only thing we really know.
This, again, is not a negative or pessimistic message. If that’s what you think, you’re missing the point. It’s the opposite.
Oh – and this isn’t about death in the conceptual, abstract sense. I mean it in the very real, very tangible, personal sense- your death.
Death is also the true oracle of life. He’s got all the answers to every question. Got a question? Wondering something? Ask Death, he knows.
All trivialities fall away put in perspective of your own death. Everything which does not carry any real significance dissipates. In the face of death, you’re forced to get very real, very quickly.
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today? And why the hell aren’t you doing it?
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
–Henry David Thoreau
Death twitches my ear. “Live,” he says. I am coming.
Rehearse death. To say this is to tell a person to rehearse his freedom. A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.
–Lucius Annaeus Seneca
The world is so exquisite. with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look Death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.
We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.
This post started out as something about Steve Jobs, and ended up about something else. Something far more important than any one man. And there are really a lot of blog posts out there discussing the guy, as there were in the first 30 minutes following his death, and which say everything I really have to say about him too, and better– I figured this sort of post would be more useful to you, the reader, and hopefully serve as a refreshing, and perhaps a bit unconventional, kick in the pants.
If life ever whacked you, knocked you down, you’ve either gotten back up, or stayed down. Enduring rough times, we’re faced with the question: “How bad does all this really get?”
The answer is, in all cases, death.
The downward spiral does exist, but it ends with death. It doesn’t just progressively get worse and worse to no end. Death is coming.
And of course, you’re going to die anyway, so it’s really kind of a non-issue.
Carpe vitae; Seize Your Life