“How do you want to die?”
This was the phrase offered by Alexander Cortes on a recent Aion Media broadcast discussing “The Crisis of Masculinity”, when he was asked about what one thing could he say to encourage people to live a better life.
This is a second-order distillation of the Stoic concept memento mori (a Latin phrase roughly meaning “Remember you die”), which is an exhortation to be cognizant of one’s own mortality. But, as I’ve said elsewhere, observation of a notion invites action. Stimulus demands a response.
Being aware of one’s perpetually-impending demise offers one a choice: remain complacently adrift, or grab the bull by the horns and ride. Note well, this choice must be made every moment thereafter being made aware of it, and not choosing is itself a choice.
“Life”, for far too many people, amounts to nothing more than a series of near-unconscious behaviors and thoughts arising from experience, emotion, and simple inertia.
To these people, their whole life itself is an involuntary response to just being alive.
It is not enough to just “remember you die”. You must embrace, or reject, the notion that you were born to a purpose. And it is this fundamental choice that trips up so many people. At the moment of awareness of one’s own mortality, dawning realization gives way to blinding necessity.
“Oh my goodness, I might die in the next five minutes! What have I done with my life?”
Now, reframe that thought.
”Oh my goodness, I might die in the next five minutes! What good can I do in the time left?”
This is the first-order extrapolation of memento mori. Some people understand this, and pursue the application of its truth in their lives to some degree. Fewer people take it to the next level.
You see, that first-order thinking implies that death will act upon you.
Truly-actualized people make the commitment to act upon death itself. Death is nothing more than entropy, that natural decay that creeps in as energy bleeds from a living system.
In a human being, that slow loss of excitement and zest for life is a form of energy loss. And each day, with every choice to do a little less work because one is tired, or sit on the coach instead of going for a walk, a person allows entropy to advance in their life. Energy loss is unavoidable. It’s a function of being alive. However, generating and inputting new energy into one’s life is also possible.
It just takes work.
Understand, NO ONE can put in the effort but you. You cannot beg, borrow, or steal minutes away from other people. The only thing that others can do for you is provide companionship, support, mentorship, and resources along the way.
There are three simple components to balancing the scales of life and holding death at bay a little longer:
1. Accountability — to oneself, and to others, for you need both to carry you
2. Ambition — to pursue greatness for its own sake, and to derive action from purpose
3. Discipline — to focus on the small things, for any great work is comprised of nothing but the moment by moment choices to keep building
There is no secret here, no vast repository of esoteric or hidden knowledge that will be the key to immortality.
As Ellis ‘Red’ Redding says in The Shawshank Redemption…
”Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
The journey begins at your end.
Dum spiro spero,