Footsteps

footsteps

Image by bies via Flickr

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the recent passing of Steve Jobs, as I’m sure many people have been lately. When someone young passes it takes us all by surprise, in a way, because we have an idea of how long someone is “supposed” to live. But the reality is that none of us really know how long our lives might be, or when our time is up. It could be minutes, it could be decades. We push away thoughts of death thinking that it will help us lead a happier life. Lets face it, death is pretty depressing. But does numbing our brains to a huge part of our reality really make our lives any better?

When we connect to the concept that our time here on earth is finite, we don’t waste time on trivial things. We dedicate ourselves to meaningful work, we build, repair and maintain relationships, and we cherish every moment. We build our compassion muscle by realizing that every person on the planet shares the same destination on their journey. We are all born, we were all little babies, and we will all die. Many religious and spiritual traditions have explanations on what happens to us after that final step. I believe that energy is neither created nor destroyed, and that the energy that forms our consciousness continues after our body stops working.

The main point is that we face major uncertainty through out our lives… When will it end? … What happens after that? … What do I do until then?  We can distract ourselves from this uncertainty, but there it is. Hanging out there, all the time, making everyone feel uncomfortable.

Clearly, living our lives as though each day is our last, is not  a very wise strategy. We could surprise ourselves and outlive everybody (take that Survivor!). If we live to be very old, then we would want to plan things out a bit, make sure that we have money for the 65 years we will live after we retire. If we drop dead tomorrow, then the joke will be on VISA, because we won’t have to pay for our last wild day. Our poor ego, it wrestles with uncertainty. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes it the truth for us, but maybe there is something we can do while we pass the time.

We can create enormous change in our lives by embracing uncertainty. Chaos scares us because we think we have to have it all figured out. But this is something that unites every single person on the planet. We can use uncertainty to activate our compassion, to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to connect with the struggles that another person is going through. When people write a eulogy, they do not talk about what things the person had, but they talk about what the person meant to them. Think about it. The most important thing about your life is how you affected other people. Do you lift them up? Do you help where you can? Do you listen? Do you let them help you?

An interesting experiment for the next few days: When you are faced with a decision, ask yourself  these two questions

  1. If I die 60 minutes from now, what choice would I make?
  2. If I die 60 years from now, would I make the same choice?

If you get the same decision from both questions, then it is pretty clear, don’t wait, get going! If you get different answers, then you have a great opportunity to delve deeper. Ask yourself “Why? Why wait? Why right now?” Is there another option you wouldn’t have considered before?

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