- “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. Almost everything—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.” – Steve Jobs
Someone who didn’t beat cancer was the immortal Steve Jobs (passing away on this day 4 years ago). Even the courage of how he faced his death brought inspiration to many. Including James Bareham who posted the piece “Remembering Steve Jobs: Mortality Inspires Me”.
- “Mortality is basis for the natural order of things. Nothing on our planet or in our (known) universe is immortal; even the stars will ‘die’. According to some astronomers, the Earth has got about another billion years left before our ever expanding sun boils away our oceans and eventually makes the surface molten once again—which gives a whole new meaning to ‘killing the planet.’ Having a healthy sense of mortality reminds us that life, all life, is precious. It should never be squandered or taken for granted. In fact, a regular reminder of our own mortality may just push us to make decisions for ourselves; to give us the courage to lead the life that we choose, and not the life chosen for us by others.
Sometimes that mortality is more an imminent throw of the dice rather than a looming inevitability. Roy Scranton, drawing on his insights as a reservist confronting both the Iraq War and the Katrina natural disaster, also makes an ardent appeal for everyone to embrace their mortality in his New York Times piece “Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene”…
- “The human psyche naturally rebels against the idea of its end. Likewise, civilizations have throughout history marched blindly toward disaster, because humans are wired to believe that tomorrow will be much like today…I found my way forward through an 18th-century Samurai manual, Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s ‘Hagakure,’ which commanded: ‘Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily.’ Instead of fearing my end, I owned it. Every morning, after doing maintenance on my Humvee, I’d imagine getting blown up by an I.E.D., shot by a sniper, burned to death, run over by a tank, torn apart by dogs, captured and beheaded, and succumbing to dysentery. Then, before we rolled out through the gate, I’d tell myself that I didn’t need to worry, because I was already dead. The only thing that mattered was that I did my best to make sure everyone else came back alive. ‘If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead,’ wrote Tsunetomo, ‘he gains freedom in the Way.’”