We will all die. Death can happen in an instant or seventy years from now. I know that being alive is the ultimate jackpot, even to be a tree or a frog (or a tree frog). The probabilities are against anything being here-if one motivated sperm hadn’t made its way thirtysome years ago to meet an egg at just right time then I am not typing. Experiencing the world is not a certainty. Each day of life is an amazing opportunity, but also one of the most taken for granted. Many of us are killing ourselves in one way or another: we drink too much; we eat too much; we hate our Self; we stress about the meaningless; we take pills to anesthetize our spirit. So many of us are just slowly killing ourselves. Living a life not worth living.
The most substantive casualty of death is the survivors. They have to deal with the loss, the guilt, the loneliness. No one knows what happens when we die. We do know that dead people don’t interact with us anymore. They are not here. It is our loss and the deceased’s squandered potential that makes death sad. This lost potential is the tragedy of death-not the loss of the survivors. A high schooler killed in a car accident-tragic. A thirty year old father is killed in war-tragic. A mother dies of cancer-tragic. A 105 year old man kills himself after his wife of eighty-five years dies-acceptable? Most people are probably less shaken by the latter. We say “Well look at all he did. He lived a good life.” Sure people are still sad, but it doesn’t shock us on a base level.
Our potential makes us great and gives us hope. Oftentimes we don’t realize our potential because we are afraid of failing. We stand by paralyzed by the fact that we might not succeed. Our brains probably naturally avoid failure like death. Going with what works is the safest bet, but it takes risky behavior to breakout of the ordinary. We are where we are because we took risks, but we are also where we are because we have been afraid of failure. A total lack of such fear is obviously not healthy, but you have to take risks to be great. And we all want to be great or at least really good, right? So have fun, take some risks and try not to die today.
Tom Robbins said it better and much more concisely:
“The principal difference between an adventurer and a suicide is that the adventurer leaves himself a margin of escape (the narrower the margin the greater the adventure), a margin whose width and length may be determined by unknown factors but whose navigation is determined by the measure of the adventurer’s nerve and wits. It is exhilarating to live by one’s nerves or toward the summit of one’s wits.”
― Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction