Use Death as the Starting Point

An intentional life often only starts with the realization of one's mortality.

Let's face it: someday, you are going to die.

In fact, it's not a matter of whether it will happen, but a matter of when.

So let's cut to the chase and talk about death — before it catches up to you at some point.

Awareness of Death

With every year, every month, every day and every second, the clock is ticking.

Even as that happens, the time still unforgivingly moves forward, and so does the process of aging and decay. 

In fact, if you live in the U. S., you are expected to live to around 78 years old. That basically translates to around 936 months, and you already know how quickly a month can pass you by.

But then, if you're reading this, it's very likely that you're not a baby. If anything, you probably only have half of the time left. That would translate to around 39 years, or 466 months.

And then, there's also the chance that you might not live to the full extent of your biological age — due to unforeseen accidents and other hazards. For example:

  • You could be hit by a truck while walking or driving today.
  • You could be a victim of an unfortunate fire incident.
  • Your life could depend on a relative who suddenly passed away.
  • You could succumb to complications of some contagious disease.

In fact, even if you were able to conquer all chronic diseases and to find a way to extend your life indefinitely, the risk of hazardous death still remains — which inevitably stacks up against you the more time you stay on this planet.

Insensitivity to Death

For some people, even after mentioning all of these, the prospect of death still seems like a very remote possibility.

After all, many of us are oblivious to death because on the daily basis, we simply don't have enough first-hand experiences to accidents, degeneration and illnesses. That is how we somehow manage to live as if none of those is ever going to happen.

But alas, ignorance of mortality is not really a blessing, because death can struck you anytime, anywhere, usually without you noticing, whether you want it or not.

More, it also doesn't care about whether you're black or white, rich or poor, celebrity or nobody, or hero or criminal. If anything, it certainly tends to occur more often with age:

  • The mass and strength of your muscles tend to decrease over time.
  • The density and flexibility of your bones tend to decrease over time. 
  • As you age, your heart arteries can harden, leading to less elasticity.
  • At the same time, your brain also degenerates over time, leaving you more prone to dementia and other cognitive impairments.

In other words, death and decay are both overwhelming facts of life which happen all the time. And the reason why we don't always get to experience them, is because our civilization has been systematically hiding them from our line of sight.

However, this blatant avoidance of death can also make us less and less in touch with our mortality, which in turn can affect our ability to cope with death — and by extension our ability to embrace the meaning of life.

Coping With Death

For many of us, the idea of dying can be nothing short of terrifying: not only does it rob us of all of our dreams and wishes, but it also rips us apart from a world we've built a deep relationship with.

Of course, when you consider that one day, the material part of you will disintegrate forever, and that your consciousness could simply cease to exist, it's very difficult for a sane person to be remain optimistic in light of these losses.

In fact, even if you were to believe in reincarnation or afterlife, or that you would transform to other forms of energy after death, it will still not alter the fact that life as it is has already ceased to be. 

After all, death is the inevitable, irreversible cessation of you as a living being. It's part of a cruel reality known as the natural cycle of life.

More poignantly, to fight against death to fight a battle you cannot win, in that even if you're biologically hard-wired to avoid it, you're still biologically bounded to succumb to it. And if you try to ignore it altogether, it will simply bounce back to haunt you more.

So if there's ever a resolution, it would come down to this: at the end of the day, you are a mortal being precisely because you were given a life. This is a fact that you need to accept — a fact you need to come to terms with.

After all, how sustainable could you be if you're constantly tormented by the fear and anxiety of death? The acceptance of death is what allows you to realize that death, not life, is the default state of things, so that you can begin to live with an end in mind.

Life Starts With Death

Obviously, the intent of this exploration is not to overwhelm you with fear or anxiety, but to help you overcome death. This way, you can begin to channel those negative energies into something more positive, something more powerful.

More specifically, since the certainty of death means that at the end of the day, you really don't have much to lose, and that after those months are spent, there'd be no turning back, you can begin to plan backward with your end date in mind.

For example, now that you've stopped operating under the assumption that you can live forever, you can start to ask some big questions such as:

  • What do I want to spend the rest of my days doing?
  • Who do I want to be with for the rest of my life?
  • Who am I really?
  • What do I want my impacts and legacy to be?
  • What are my "last wishes"?

On the surface, this might seem like a sick scarcity tactic nature is playing on us, but deep down, it is actually thoroughly liberating, because it also means that:

  • You no longer have to take everything for granted.
  • You no longer have to stress over small things.
  • You no longer have to live a life full of regrets. 
  • You no longer have to focus on stuff that doesn't matter.

If anything, the more attuned you are to your own mortality, the more rooms you have to add more "colors" to your life. For example:

  • You would begin to treat every simple thing as precious and valuable.
  • You would begin to change your perspective from narrow and material to cosmic and spiritual. 
  • You would begin to make healthier choices and avoid mindless distractions (including extraneous possessions). 
  • You would begin to act more in alignment with your core values

In fact, if you have any near-death experience, then you'd notice that with each brush with death, you gain a stronger will to live and a stronger plan to get there, so that at the end of the day, you can be more at peace with dying and leaving this world.

Whichever the case, death invariably forces you to act with a heightened sense of purpose and urgency, and to treat every second as a precious resource. But then, isn't that a blessing in disguise is all about?

Embrace Your Mortality

For thousands of years, humans have long dreaded deaths as if they were plagues, and have sought for different ways such as religions and transhumanism to eradicate them.

Because of that, the emotional baggage behind death remains largely unresolved, leading to a world of people who are out of touch with their humanity and purpose.

But then, that's not to say that you need to follow their path towards some twisted conception of death. Instead, you can also choose to face death straight on — which is a sustainable way towards solving the death conundrum.

In particular, you'll see that if you don't run away from it, push it to tomorrow or react to it with disdain, death can actually transform your life. So why not honor your mortality, and by extension the impermanence of life?

"Every day, remember your death and remember that you're alive. Listen to your heart beats with gratitude, and be prepared to act with urgency and purpose."

In fact, the more you do so, the more you'll realize that memento mori is really your trump card against death: you'd be able say "I'm ready for it" when the time comes, whereas others who fail to do so will be left behind.

Most importantly, don't wait for debilitating diseases or mid-life crisis to take you to the same epiphany. Instead, act quickly, act swiftly, so that you can plan and seize the day to create your own heaven on Earth — while the window's still open.

Until you realize that you're in a life-and-death situation, there's little chance that much will happen, but if you let death be the starting point of your thought and actions, then you'll see that it's death that provides you with a life worth living.

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