Blog Archives

On the Shortness of Life

Last weekend I was reminded two times that life is not forever. That it will end some day and no one knows about that day or hour.

First, I discovered that a dead cat is lying in my backyard. It was hidden under a hedge so I haven’t found out this (I rarely go there) until my neighbour complained about the smell. It was a pretty nasty sight as it must had been lying there for a few days. I called the Bureau of Sanitation and they sent someone to clean it up. I don’t know whose cat it was or why it died.

Second, I played football (soccer) with my friend and some other people that he knows. I rarely play football, but since I was invited to the match, I went. It was the day of World Cup final (Netherlands vs. Spain) so we intended to watch the game on TV after our own match.

Our game was good and fun. However, I am out of shape, so I got tired pretty fast and played as a goalkeeper for the second half. After the match we watched World Cup final on TV and Spain became the new world champion. It was a nice event, the whole evening.

However, later when I got home and stepped out of my car, I got abnormal heart rhythm. I am no doctor, but I think it was atrial fibrillation. I had similar experiences a few times in my life, even as a teenager. Every time it went away after a few minutes. I believe this time I got this episode of abnormal heart rhythm because I stretched too much at the football match. I should do regular physical activity every day, not doing nothing for two weeks and then stretch like that.

The interesting part is that while I was having abnormal heart rhythm I saw a shooting star (I was sitting outside, on my doorsteps, and waiting for my heart to go back to normal rhythm). It was inevitable that after seeing that meteor that lasted only a second or even less, before it burned out, while at the same time having this medical situation, I started thinking about life and death.

For a long time I have been behaving like I will live forever. I’ve been procrastinating on things that I want to do as if I have all the time in the world to do them later. I had big plans for my future, but that was it – it was for the future. I shouldn’t even say I had plans. A plan implies that you have a concrete goal and a list of actions that will lead you there, which I never had.

Procrastination can be an expression of fear of change – whether fear of failure or fear of success as well. We may dream of change, but at the same time fear it, and therefore avoid it. That was my case for most of my life. As long as I was very young I had been successfully deluding myself that I really do want change but the time is not right yet – I have to learn more, before I can change my life.

Well, I am not very young any more. I am not old yet, but I can’t delude myself anymore that postponing changes into the future will EVER work. The only time that change can happen is now. We cannot change in the future. If we wait too long, we may never change. We may die before we change.

So, the questions are, do I really want change and if so, am I going to start it now? In fact, this is only one single question.

Do you love life? (Quote of the Month, June 2010)

Do you love life? Then do not squander time,
for that’s the stuff life is made of.

– Benjamin Franklin

I find this quote very interesting… and somewhat difficult to grasp. First of all, what does it mean that life is made out of time? Well, we were born, we live and someday we will die. The time span between our birth and our death encompasses all our life (at least on Earth). Life is short. No matter how long we will live, our life will flew us by. We have limited amount of time to live our lives. To do what we want, to enjoy life, to build, create, learn. So, time is precious. If you love life you should not squander the time you have.

And how do you squander time? For example: is playing guitar a waste of time… or not? My take on it is that it really depends on your goals. Let’s say that you want to become a great guitar player and you diligently practice every day? Then this is not squandering of time. Every mastery requires a massive imput of energy and time and if you want to become a master in certain area you have to practice a lot. Let’s say that you don’t want to become a great player; you just play for your enjoyment and relaxation. This is not a waste of time either. There may come no tangible result from you doing it, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. (Don’t forget to the other side of the equation though: all play and no work makes Jack a mere toy).

A real waste is when you do something that you neither enjoy nor do you know a purpose behind why you are doing it. When you are not doing it because you want to learn or do something constructive or enjoyable but because you just want to kill some time. Or because other people have told you that you should do it even though you don’t want to (let’s assume you are a grown up and you can decide for yourself). Or when you are doing it compulsively because you are caught in habitual patterns of thoughts and actions that are governing your life.

So, to answer a question whether you are squandering time, you should answer these questions: what are your goals in life and what is your main life purpose? (Finding your life purpose is a topic for another post.) What are your intentions behind doing certain activity? Does it take you closer to your goals or does it distancing you from your goals? If it serves no purpose, is it at least enjoyable? If you find that certain activity is not getting you closer to your goals and it doesn’t serve the purpose of enjoyment and relaxation either, then you are probably squandering your time.

*Originally: Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.