The funny thing about life is that you have no idea when it will all be over.
We muddle our way through childhood, through difficult teenage years and into adulthood and at some point we meet our ultimate fate. Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to make it that far.
Numerous children die a few days after birth. You can die during your childhood or in your teenage years, as happened to someone I played football with. For the majority of us, we have no way of knowing when we will go, we just know at some point we will.
There is a phrase in Latin, Memento Mori, which sums up this line of thinking. Translated into English it means ‘Remember your death.’ This sounds like a morbid sentiment. None of us wants to contemplate our mortality, it’s not comfortable thinking about the possibility of not existing and what lies on the other side of death if anything at all.
However, it is supposed to be a statement that frees you, instead of imprisoning you. Instead of feeling anxious when we consider our own mortality, we should feel empowered, inspired and grateful.
Each day we get on this beautiful planet we call home is a blessing. We can either stumble through life with no direction and lament the passing of time as we get older, or we can take matters into our own hands and make the most of the brief time we have.
When you think about it, there is only one option that makes any sense.
Live Today, Not Tomorrow
The Stoic philosopher Seneca stated that “When a man has said, ‘I have lived!’, every morning he arises is a bonus.” This may seem like a confusing statement on the face of it, but it is full of wisdom.
The past is gone, the future never comes, so all we are left with is the present. If we do not make the most of the time we have now, we will look back at the past with regret and mourn for the time we have wasted. Thus, we will look to the future with anxiety.
The time we have left on this planet will not be one of enjoyment, but trepidation. Trepidation at the ever-shortening time we have to make the most of our lives. Whereas, if you seize the day and squeeze every drop out of the present, these worries will not exist.
They crumble away and leave you with the sentiment that Seneca was expressing. When you have made the most of your time here, each day that you receive afterwards is a bonus.
It is easy to go through life in a daze with no clear direction. It is easy to stay rooted in your comfort zones, not daring to venture outside of it for fear of what lies out there. What is difficult, is to live a life based on your values. To live each day with a purpose and a clear sense of direction.
That is truly a difficult task.
By remembering your own death, you are remembering that there is a limit to your time here on Earth. Life is long enough to fool us into thinking it will last forever but short enough to waste. To waste your time on the mundanity of life is to waste the most precious gift you will ever receive.
None of us will ever overcome what awaits us. The inevitable end will catch up with all of us one day. It may be ten years away, it may be forty, or it may sooner, the key point is that we will never know until it’s too late.
That’s why it’s imperative that we live today, and not tomorrow. There will be a day when tomorrow never comes, and when it does would you rather look back on your life as a missed opportunity or one where you stayed true to yourself and embraced life?
Distraction = Death
It was the American polymath, Ben Franklin, who said that “some people die at 25, but aren’t buried until they are 75.” If there was ever a more prescient quote for life in our day and age I am yet to come across it!
Our world is developing at an ever-faster rate. Each year there are more and more companies, devices and shows competing for our attention. While this may seem good on the surface, it has negative connotations.
The phones that we carry around with us on a daily basis are no longer phones. They are a portable swiss army knife of options. You can use your phone to watch TV series, to play games and to do a whole host of activities.
They are devices designed to distract us and divert our attention from what is truly important in life, living. While we may be breathing while we browse on these machines, we are slowly dying. This is time that could be utilised, instead, we waste it in front of screens that offer us little intrinsic value other than entertainment.
We may think this time well spent, but binge-watching Game of Thrones is not living. The show may be fun and enjoyable, but there is a whole world out there with adventure and purpose calling. To suspend your life in the real world to soak in events from a fictional one is madness.
Many great men and women have come before you and succumbed, what makes you think you will outlive any of them? Martin Luther King was assassinated at the age of 39. Killed in his prime, but his life was one of purpose and dignity, not banality.
The point is, life is what you make of it. It is a tragedy that King was taken from us as early as he was, but it’s a tragedy when someone lives to 80 while only living a fraction of the life that King did.
Wasting the years you are given on this planet is a crime. Not enough of us have the guile and desire to a life that is fulfilling and enriching, yet we all possess the potential to do so.
Instead of drifting through life, take the wheel and get to work. You never know when you may go, but if you make the most of your time here, you will not regret it when you do.