Decide How You Will Go Forward: This Is Your Moment, Now
Our time is consecrated by choices we make. What are you doing to help today?
Posted Jun 02, 2020
We're not tourists here, my friends. This is our life, together and now. Unpack your bags. Decide how you'll go forward.
Here’s the thing about life: nobody gets out alive. The important thing is to use your life well and to leave the world better than you found it—to tidy up as you go.
Because you're going to go.
Comics, philosophers, monks, playwrights, anthropologists, psychologists, painters, songwriters, athletes and, yes, medical professionals, have all known this, even as most of us (whether or not we practice those professions ourselves) attempt to spend most of our time denying it or avoiding the fact that our ground time here is brief.
The fact of our death is the big truth. "If it be now, ’tis not to come," says Shakespeare's Hamlet of death. "If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all." Unlike taxes, it's one of those things you can't avoid—even if you're rich, or smart, or enlightened.
The readiness is all.
The point of life in most cultures during pre-modern times was to prepare the soul for the afterlife. For those who continue to be religious to this day, that is still the case: life on Earth is a dress rehearsal, a proving ground for the spirit to display virtue and merit in order to earn a place in heaven.
But if you are not a believer, or if your belief system doesn't include a God who keeps a Permanent Record In The Sky of your daily activities, a Moral Bookkeeper who knows your running tally or a version of Santa who knows when you've been naughty (and will therefore decide accordingly how long to withhold your celestial Little Pony once you've arrived at the Pearly Gates), then how do you look at the moral and ethical justifications for your life's actions?
How do you assess your life when it comes to standing up for what you believe?
Is it simply a long life that you want? Maybe you can live a longer life if you make certain choices (no additional butter on the fried mac-and-cheese, fewer cigars while hiking, no bourbon before breakfast) but even if you live to 149 because you ate enough fiber, at that point you’ll just be filibustering. Even your most ardent supporters won’t be cheering you on any longer because it’ll be time to yield the floor.
The real decision is how to use the time we’re allotted—not merely to find ways to extend it. We must know why we make the choices we make, and regard our time as filled with choices.
Our time is consecrated by the choices we make. What are you doing to help today?
Do we want to use that time being too afraid to leave our own neighborhoods? Do we want to spend our days and nights afraid of our neighbors, terrified of the unfamiliar, scared to head out into the world because the world is a scary place?
Right now politicians, newscasters, and spokespeople from various organizations are selling fear like it’s a product. They’re scaring us. They’re profiting from our trepidation. They’re putting manacles on our imagination.
But everywhere is a scary place if you carry your fear inside of you.
Above my desk, even as I am typing this post, I see in my peripheral vision a short piece I cut out of the AARP in 2007. It's called "How to Die"—no author attributed—and I read it every day: "The point of the party is not your leaving it. Apologize for any breakage, thank your hosts, listen when they say they were glad you could come, mean it when you say you had a wonderful time, then grab your coat and go. Make sure the door closes behind you. Don't forget your hat."
Don't let fear steal your time; don't allow despair to silence you; don't abdicate your intelligence, generosity, and potential for joy but instead seize the day, the hour, the moment. Consider. Decide. Choose.