“But, dear lady, while we are staking our lives, we are old enough to know it. For that, one should have an emotional grasp of death. Children seldom are able to realize that death will come to them personally. One might define adulthood as the age at which a person learns that he must die … and accepts his sentence undismayed.”
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
Recently my meditations have been on my death. A few years ago I went to a doctor. To a specialist. Echocardiograms and sonograms and the works. Wires and probes and pads and graphs and screens. Even with all of this, the results would take a week. A week to think about the chance that I will be given my death sentence.
We all die. No one gets out alive. The toddler doesn’t know what death is. The child doesn’t know that death will come for him or her. The teenager knows it won’t. For a time, I assured myself that my death would come soon… Sooner than for most. And for that time, things were good. Things were better. These “things” were internal. External influences on me and my life didn’t change, but my reactions to these externals did. And then… I lost sight of this.
If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.
Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Frequent meditations on the theme of a person’s own demise lends ease to the prioritization that occur daily. Some things must be treated lightly, other things must be treated seriously. Somethings must be upsetting, some things must be let go. Philosophers, artists, all have written about how a person must know to value their own life. Valuing life is impossible, unless it is known that death is a certainty. Remember those basic economic classes? Supply and demand. Demand for life is unnecessary if the perceived supply is infinite.
Tim McGraw’s popular Live Like You Were Dying is a good example. Keith Urban’s Days Go By is a bit more of a favorite for me.
Days go by
I can feel ‘em flying
Like a hand out the window in the wind as the cars go by
It’s all we’ve been given
So you better start livin’ right now
’Cause days go by
I must mention, I find it odd that country performers seem to grasp this idea more readily than other genres. Hip-hop? Forget it. Hedonism is a mainstay.
Tonight, I spoke of this theme to Katie. I revere my own perception of the immediacy of my mortality. I told her, laughingly, that I might give her that same gift. I may tell her that in three to five years, specific moment unspecified, I would kill her. Perceived supply has been diminished, the resulting demand should increase proportionally, correct? She gave me no reply to if she’d appreciate that or not. I’d imagine that no one would answer such a statement.
I’m keeping your license. I know where you live. I’m going to check on you. If you aren’t back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead. Now, get the hell out of here.
Fight Club, (2000)