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Let me open this post with a brief reminder:
You will die.
Sorry if that came across as harsh. It’s of course not just you—I will die too. All of us: your mum, your child, your pet. There’s no exception and no negotiation about this.
Life as the Ultimate Goal
The reason that you are most likely a bit taken aback now is that we are not really used to thinking about this certainty. We are surely aware of the fact that death is a thing, yet we usually do not focus our attention on the topic of dying.
Life is meant to continue. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud stated in one of his early works that we as humans are conditioned to follow two basic forces: the instinct of self-preservation, simply translated into personal survival, and the sexual drive of reproduction, which leads to the survival of the species as a whole.
Considering these instincts makes it easy to understand why we as a society focus so much of our energy on the priority of sustaining life in all forms. We are constantly improving the medical ways to prolong our life spans, inventing machines that take over our breathing if needed; we are keen on making plans and promises for the future, and on making insurances for all sorts of (un)likely events.
We are centering our sense of self-care around safety in order to push away the one thing that seems to be the most dangerous to happen: the loss of our identity as a human.
Safety versus Curiosity
Avoiding risks of any sort seems to be the most logical practice in order to survive the longest. Staying within our lane, repeating patterns and walking trails we’ve already been on, appears to be a surefire way to live a safe, long life, marked by control and the absence of pain.
But is that really the case? Are we really happy only following the well-trodden path?
In fact, neuroscientists found out long ago that the areas in our brain responsible for the instinct of fear are linked to the ones triggering curiosity, and vice versa. Meaning, the same situation can leave us scared or excited, or both at the same time.
This is where the human dilemma comes in. We are conflicted by the act of following our inherent blueprint of survival, yet at the same time dying to explore the unknown. (Pun intended.)
So how do we go about uniting these two opposing core instincts?
The Safest Place on Earth
Taking risks is dangerous—or so we are taught from childhood onward. Don’t play with fire, don’t talk to strangers, don’t walk that dodgy road on your way home from school.
Let me disclose to you a mind-blowing statement that I got out of my latest bedside table book, Death; an Inside Story: a book for all those who shall die, by Sadhguru:
“The safest place you will ever find on earth is your grave.”
If we, by all means, want absolutely nothing to happen to us, this is the place to go. The state of death involving a sense of non-being and non-doing means we can’t make any mistakes there. There are no more risks to take, nothing else to lose, no wrong choices to make.
Great! Problem solved, no?
Let’s take this controversial view a little further. We’ve got two options on how to practically apply this perspective:
One, we could be living our life to the fullest, taking on any risk that comes our way, being bold, making dumb decisions, and die from it one day.
Or two, we could be keeping it low, playing it safe, staying at home, saving all our money—and still die from it one day.
The ironic bottom line here is, we might think we act in our best interest to evade death as much as possible. Yet, this event being an intrinsic part of life itself, avoiding death means avoiding life. And by trying to be safe at all costs and living our lives restricted by fear and worry, holding back with our desires and dreams, we are basically already dead.
No one is telling us how to live this life. But the truth of death being a part of it is nonnegotiable. It will for sure happen, one way or the other, no matter what we do.
So would you rather be deadly alive or a living dead?
The Risk of Not Living
We have a choice to make between sitting down and waiting for death to come or walking toward it, taking any side road we can catch, laughing and singing along the way.
We can decide between doing what we are being told to do, taking the safest career path, sticking with the most stable relationship, not taking that trip, not buying that gadget, or we can choose to go after our dreams, to follow our intuition, to invest in that start-up, to move to a foreign country we don’t even speak the language of.
We are given the options of living life under the illusion of safety or trying out unusual behaviours, finding hidden locations, inventing new principles by the concept of trial and error.
We, as the human species, with our unique fusion of instincts that make us want to be on Earth as long as possible, paired with this untamable mind pushing us to explore life to its limits and beyond, have the capacity to form our own reality. If anything, life will always continue in one way or the other, if not through us, for sure through the imprint we leave by our existence.
So, let’s make our time here count. Let’s make the most out of this game, accept the rules, and play around with them. Let’s see what is possible, go crazy with our imagination, and have fun with it.
Let’s make this life about living—dangerously.