Use Death as Your 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 by surprise.

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, chances are, you're far from being a baby. If anything, you probably only have half of your time left. That would translate to around 39 years, or 466 months.

And then, that's not to mention that you might not live to the full extent of your biological age. For example:

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

In fact, even if you were able to conquer all chronic diseases and 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 remote like it doesn't connect.

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 we'll continue to exist forever — 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 ever noticing, whether you want it or not.

What's more, it also doesn't care about whether you're black or white, rich or poor, celebrity or nobody, or hero or criminal, but it certainly tends to occur more as you age more because:

  • The mass and strength of your muscles tend to decrease over time.
  • The density and flexibility of your bones tend to decrease over time. 
  • The elasticity of your heart arteries tends to decrease over time (making them harder and more likely to crack).
  • The physiology and functioning of your brain tend to degenerate 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 all sorts of measures to hide 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 reduce 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 into 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.

Because of that, to fight against death is to fight against an enemy you can't 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 that if there's ever a resolution to all of these, it would be 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 the 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.

Indeed, 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 then begin to plan your life 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 yourself some deeper 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 with us, but deep down, it is actually quite 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 might begin to treat every simple thing as precious and valuable.
  • You might begin to change your perspective from narrow and material to cosmic and spiritual. 
  • You might begin to make healthier choices and avoid mindless distractions (including the collection of extraneous possessions). 
  • You might begin to act more in alignment with your core values

In fact, if you have any near-death experience, you might notice that with each brush with death, you'd 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 will invariably force you to act with a heightened sense of purpose and urgency, and to treat each of your moments as a precious resource. But then, isn't that what 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 itself is a sustainable way toward solving the death conundrum.

In fact, you might find 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 that you are ready when the time comes, whereas others who fail to do so will be left behind.

So don't wait until you get a debilitating disease or experience a mid-life crisis to reach the same epiphany. Instead, act quickly, act swiftly, so that you can plan and seize your own version of 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 actually death that makes your life more worthy of living.

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