You’re sitting on your couch, watching TV, scrolling on social media, playing video games, or watching some YouTube videos one after another.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a shocking and staggering thought falls on you from the sky—dropping on your head a load of existentialist questions:
What if I’m going to die tomorrow?
Why am I wasting my time like this?
What if I were to die before accomplishing anything in my life?
Why would I want to plan for anything in my life if I could die in the middle of trying to attain it?
I went through this experience several times, and it never failed to give me the chills. Whenever I give the idea of death the freedom to run riot inside my head, it becomes like entering one of those scary haunted houses. I get surprised by one agitating thought after another.
When we go through this experience, the majority of us forget about it after several minutes from its occurrence—but those who don’t manage to shake it off from their minds like me, get severely impacted by its deep and diverse interpretations.
Consider this thought as a two-faced coin, which face we see depends mainly on how we’re holding and looking at it.
There is the first type who get the dark and pessimistic side of the coin:
Those are the ones who, after undergoing this experience, somehow lose their faith in life. They cease to see the purpose of actually struggling and fighting to achieve something—making the effort to reach certain ambitions and goals. They start to think:
Why should I bother at all if we could die tomorrow, the next week, or even the next month? Why should I try to make a difference and leave an impact in the world, if we could leave it before witnessing its outcome?
Sadly, it’s difficult to come around and change this perspective—living starts to look meaningless and irrelevant. Nothing motivates us anymore.
Then there is the second type who get the bright and positive side of the coin:
These people are the luckiest and most fortunate ones at all. They get a huge advantage over the first type—and even over those who just forget about the experience and somehow block it from their minds. They get a huge boost of self-motivation and willpower from the experience thinking primarily:
Well if I don’t know how or when I’m going to die, why sit around waiting for it?
What if it comes after 50 years from now? I won’t waste those years waiting for my time to come. I’ll get up and pursue my dreams, and maybe when the moment arrives, I won’t have any regrets or remorses.
Why do I call this kind of person lucky? Well because they tend to have the same resolutions about life similar to what people who go through a near-death experience get, but without actually dying then coming back.
If we ask anyone who went through a near-death experience, “What did it change about you?” They’ll probably say, it changed their perspective of life, knowing how everything would fade away instantly like switching off the light, how being and not being are separated by a thin and slender string that could be chopped in a matter of seconds.
The thought of death could be frightening, and even if not everyone undergoes a near-death experience or gets haunted constantly by the mere thought of it. We all sleep. Sleep is like a teaser of how death would look like, and was well described by Ursula K. le Guin when she said, “Sleep is just death being shy.”
Death is inevitable; we can’t avoid it or anticipate it, and constantly thinking about it won’t do us any good.
The best way for us to interact with this idea is by consistently trying to accomplish our dreams and goals. Continue trying to make an impact and leave a stamp in this world, and keep in mind that we as humans represent a short glimpse, a brief moment from this world and the universe’s history.
There is no need to stress out about why or when our time will come.
Instead, let’s try to make the most of it and leave it better than how we found it.
“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