Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.~ Susan Ertz
Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.~ Susan Ertz
I don’t collect many souvenirs. Sometimes I buy postcards when I visit places… and then I tape those into my journals. But in a very real sense a lot of what I write in my journals is meant to be a souvenir. Either way, the physical or the notational souvenir, is meant to trigger some memory.
Even institutions built for the express purpose of information preservation have succumbed to the ravages of time, natural disaster or human conquest. The famous library of Alexandria, one of the most important repositories of knowledge in the ancient world, eventually faded into obscurity. Built in the fourth century B.C., the library flourished for some six centuries, an unparalleled center of intellectual pursuit. Alexandria’s archive was said to contain half a million papyrus scrolls — the largest collection of manuscripts in the ancient world — including works by Plato, Aristotle, Homer and Herodotus. By the fifth century A.D., however, the majority of its collections had been stolen or destroyed, and the library fell into disrepair.~ Adrienne Bernhard from, https://longnow.org/ideas/shining-a-light-on-the-digital-dark-age/
Always I’m thinking: Do I really want to add this thing to my pile? There’s a timeframe of only a few decades where any thing, or notation, has the chance to jog my memory. Sometimes I think of taking a photo… and then I think, why? Why this image right here? Maybe it would be better (I continue thinking) to just relax and enjoy the moment. Even the Library at Alexandria’s enormous collection was surely only a minuscule fraction of what humanity had created to that point. Why take a photo? Why make a notation? Why build a web site? :)
Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so a well-employed life brings blessed death.~ Leonardo da Vinci
People should not look at their approaching golden years with dread or apprehension but as perhaps one of the most significant stages in their development as a human being, even during these turbulent times. For me, old age has been a renaissance despite the tragedies of losing my beloved wife and son. It’s why the greatest error anyone can make is to assume that, because an elderly person is in a wheelchair or speaks with quiet deliberation, they have nothing important to contribute to society. It is equally important to not say to yourself if you are in the bloom of youth: “I’d rather be dead than live like that.” As long as there is sentience and an ability to be loved and show love, there is purpose to existence.~ Harry Leslie Smith from, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/24/dont-dread-old-age-fear-tories-tyranny-austerity
“Quiet deliberation,” indeed. I find myself increasingly in that state, (although I am still too–often found in the state of denial.) During interpersonal situations, I find myself thinking: “What could I say here that would actually be useful?” and coming up with “nothing” as my answer I’m left to choose between contributing silence, or contributing social lubrication. That’s a shift of intention which comes from decades of glacial movement towards true self-awareness. I believe it’s time yet again to reschedule my mid-life crisis; it seems I have some more thinking to do.
Let the impermanence of all life-forms sink in. The stability and solidity of the things we see are mere illusions. We must not be afraid of the pangs of sadness that ensue from this perception. The tightness of our emotions, usually so wound up around our own needs and concerns, is now opening up to the world and to the piognancy of life itself, and we should welcome this.~ Robert Greene
Death is a declarative punctuation mark – a period in a life full of commas and semicolons. Death is a full stop, the end of opportunities for the deceased and those who knew them. Death is cruel like that.~ Hugh Hollowell from, https://www.soverybeautiful.org/if-we-love-we-grieve/
I like the punctuation metaphor. I like the finality of the imagery. When I read that turn of phrase, I heard the sharp crack of a mechanical typewriter striking the period. I’m just not sure that the metaphor is apt for the experience of someone else’s death. That’s always been more like turning the page, midway through a book, and discovering the next face—and alas all the subsequent pages—are inexplicably blank. That’s not a period or an ellipses or even a highbrow em-dash. That’s just
If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty.~ Yoshida Kenkō
Because we don’t exactly know how may days we’ll be alive, and because we try our hardest not to think about the fact that someday we’ll die, we’re pretty liberal with how freely we spend our time. We let people and obligations impose on that time, only rarely asking: What am I getting in return here?~ Ryan Holiday
For it’s always that way with the sacred value of life. We forget it as long as it belongs to us, and give it as little attention during the unconcerned hours of our life as we do the stars in the light of day. Darkness must fall before we are aware of the majesty of the stars above our heads.~ Stefan Zweig
Unlike chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, the “cure” for traffic fatalities will depend more on technology and policy than on medicine and health science. On the plus side, we as a society already have pretty clear evidence of effective strategies for improving the problem – e.g., stricter speed limit enforcement, restrictions on commercial and residential building along arterial roads, and mandates for safety features such as automatic emergency braking. On the minus side, we as individuals are very limited in our power to enact those strategies.~ Peter Attia from, https://peterattiamd.com/the-epidemic-on-the-road/
The article is about traffic fatalities in the context of the COVID pandemic. I’m focusing simply on the fact that more than 40,000 people died in 2021 in traffic fatalities. Sure there are lots of causes, but you know what the single most easily implemented change is? Of course you do. Slow down. Me? You’ll find me doing about 5-over-the-limit on the highway (so people don’t literally shoot me) and usually a little below-the limit otherwise. Often with the cruise control set. How about you?
The essential power that confronting your mortality will give you—I call it the Sublime. Because it also opens up this idea of how amazing the world is that we live in, and how much we take for granted because we think that we’re going to live forever. It’s an incredibly important concept to me and it’s also very personal in the sense that I came this close to dying myself. I compare it to standing at the shore of some vast ocean. The fear of that dark ocean makes you turn away and retreat. I want you to get into your little boat and I want you to go into that ocean and explore it.~ Robert Greene
We now live in a world where [our relationship with detah] is the complete opposite. We have to repress the very thought of it. We can’t see it anywhere. It’s put into hopitals where it’s sanitized, where it happens behind closed doors. Nobody ever talks about it. Nobody tells you this is probably the most important life skill that you could have—to know how to deal with that fear of mortality. Nobody teaches that. Your parents don’t talk about it. Your girlfriend or boyfriend—they don’t talk about it. Nobody. It’s a dirty little secret. But it’s the only reality we have. We’re all going to die.~ Robert Greene
Accepting that “accidents happen” requires an acceptance of limitations to the control we have over our own lives. The philosopher Bernard Williams describes the hazy area between intention and outcome, where factors outside of one’s control can influence the course of events and our reactions to them: “anything that is the product of the will is surrounded and held up and partly formed by things that are not.” This thought may be unsettling, but constitutes the first step in letting go of guilt and moving forward along the path of healing, both for those who have caused unintentional harm and for any who are struggling with trauma.~ Peter Attia from, https://peterattiamd.com/how-do-you-move-forward-after-making-a-fatal-mistake/
I am lucky in that I do not have any self-assigned guilt of the magnitude Attia is describing in this article. (I was pleasantly surprised by this article, it being different than his usual hard medical science.) But I do have a life-crushing pile of self-assigned, paper-cut-sized guilt for countless things I see in hindsight that I could have done better: Why didn’t I learn some particular lesson sooner? How did I not see that situation as it was developing? What if I had let go of that thing sooner? Perhaps you have occasion to ask similar questions.
I’ve verified that there’s nothing I can do to change the past. (Perhaps you’ve also.) But I have learned to tack faster: I flippantly made a silly tall joke—”how’s the weather up there?”—to a very tall friend as we passed at a busy event. As the day, and the next day, wore on I realized I was repeatedly thinking that had been inappropriate. The next time I saw him, I told him so, “dude, my joke was inappropriate and I apologize.” Radical honesty, as it’s sometimes called.
And for the things which end up one way, for reasons beyond my control, I deploy one, two, or all three of: 50,000 years from now, what difference will it make? Did I do everything within my power, (aka the dichotomy of control.) Memento mori.
Ray Liotta died on May 26, 2022. I wasn’t a particular fan of his, but he was definitely an actor who was a significant part of the culture I grew up in. There are many such people; actors of course, and also authors, musicians, journalists, teachers, scientists, politicians, military leaders, activists, and others less classifiable.
It’s one thing to think: That huge band that I love, which I’ve seen in concert… they’ve retired and hung up the act. Just knowing the people are still around however, means that something of, whatever it was that I loved, continues on in whatever it is, (public or not,) that they’re doing. Nostalgia rises up as people retire and things become, “remember when?”
But slowly, year by year, those people die and that makes it clear: Everything has its time, and that time ends. There but for the grace of God go I, is a beautiful turn of phrase.
If you have not known how to make the best use of it, if it was unprofitable to you, what need you care to lose it, to what end would you desire longer to keep it?~ Michel de Montaigne
What a ridiculous thing it is to trouble ourselves about taking the only step that is to deliver us from all trouble! As our birth brought us the birth of all things, so in our death is the death of all things included. And therefore to lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago.~ Michel de Montaigne
*sigh* It’s been one week of 2022 and despite my best efforts, I’ve already got far to much on my to-should pile. Sometimes it’s fun to grab a biggish goal and just hard-charge up that hill. Sometimes though it’s wiser to just move something to the to-don’t list. But there is an immense disconnect between what I can get done in a day, and where I feel I’ve gotten enough done at the end of the day. It’s as if I’m running from something… or desperately towards something. memento mori
Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able—be good.~ Marcus Aurelius
Inspired by a reader’s question to me, I thought I’d ask our followers on Facebook and Twitter for an answer to the question: What books would you recommend someone read to improve their general knowledge of the world.
I must say the number and quality of the responses overwhelmed me. The box Amazon just delivered reminds me that I ordered 9 books off this list.~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2016/09/books-recommend-someone-read-improve-general-knowledge-world/
I know there are too many books—old books, new books, red books, blue books … A friend of mine just published a book, Before You Say Anything, and Jiminy Cricket I’d love to read it— I hovered on the add-to-cart button. But I paused, managing to trigger my habit-change “wedge” of repeating: “simplfiy. simplify. simplify.” I digress.
I skimmed that list of books from Parrish and felt I should probably read every one of them. Instead—simplify. simplify. simplify.—I noted I’ve read several, have several more already in my possession, and several others on the wishlist. With a life-is-short shrug, I’m passing it along to you and moving on with my morning.
But what if my friends there should die? What else could that signify except that men who are mortal have died? Do you at once wish to live to be old, and yet not to see the death of any one you love? Do you not know that, in a long course of time, many and various events must necessarily happen? That a fever must get the better of one person, a highwayman of another, a tyrant of a third?~ Epictetus