“Focus your attention on the link between you and your death, without remorse or sadness or worrying. Focus your attention on the fact you don’t have time and let your acts flow accordingly. Let each of your acts be your last battle on earth. Only under those conditions will your acts have their rightful power. Otherwise they will be, for as long as you live, the acts of a timid man…. Being timid prevents us from examining and exploiting our lot as men.” – Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan
I did the math, mentally adding 25 years to my current age and toyed with the idea of being that later age. There are no guarantees that I’ll ever reach that point in my life, of course. No guarantees for any of us marching through time on our annual trip around the sun. But I toyed with the idea of being an old man and wondered at the state of my mind and body. I wondered at the experiences I’d had in the interim, these years between now and then.
This long sleep we have in store for ourselves is our future, whether a quarter century away or this afternoon, and we ought to live boldly instead of merely timidly existing. I won’t say I’ve mastered this, but I live a better life knowing that the whole dance could end on the next drum beat. But we can do so much more. Simply by living with urgency.
This theme, the constant reminder of our imminent death, runs through Stoic philosophy. And it runs through this blog. I try, not always successfully, to use it as a cattle prod to my backside. A jolt of awareness that this could all end at any moment, so break free of that routine, break away from the timid existence and live a life of adventure and boldness. It’s the underlying theme of this blog, beginning on the home page with Thoreau’s call to action:
“Rise free from care before the dawn and seek adventures.” – Henry David Thoreau
If we accept that we must die, and as improbable as it might seem, at any moment, what might we do to live now? If this is our final act, what will it be? And, if blessed with another, what of the act to follow?
The answer clearly must be to live the moment with urgency. Say what must be said. Do what must be done. Get out there and live boldly! Pursue the magic in the moment with vigor and a profound lust for life.