For DC: “how can one best fulfill the saying live as if you might die tomorrow?”
I’m a very naughty fellow, so whenever anybody gives me some sort of directive I tend to quickly think of the most mischievous way to interpret it. And here it is for this one:
If I knew I were going to die tomorrow, I think the first thing I would do is probably get myself some drugs. I mean, you’re going to die, right? Some people say that using heroin is like lying to rest in the lap of God. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to go? The main thing keeping me from trying (apart from the fact that it is very, very illegal) is the knowledge that it’s very addictive / habit-forming, and that I had a tough enough time with cigarettes.  But an addiction is meaningless if you’re not going to wake up to see tomorrow.
Anyway – to answer the question directly. I don’t know. I think a lot of people throw the sentence around because it sounds really enlightened. It’s the sort of thing you’d say at a commencement speech at a prestigious university – Steve Jobs said something similar, and I’m sure like at least 30% of speakers say the same thing.
That said, I can think of a few instances in my life where I found myself thinking, “You know what, if I died now, I’d be alright with it.” Looking back, I realise I tend to think this when looking at good views, or when taking a long, leisurely walk. So maybe the answer is to take more walks.
There’s a lot of things that I still want to do before I die. And I know that I realistically won’t do them all. I won’t become a hotshot author AND a popular musician AND learn to code and build a killer app AND travel to all the cool countries in the world AND… you know it. I have to prioritise. And accept that most of the things just aren’t going to happen. Right now I’m thinking the thing that I really want to try is to put in as many points as I can into the “Author” skill tree. And that means writing as much as I can. A day when I write is better than a day when I don’t write. And there IS always a really satisfying feeling at the end of having written something, even if I know that as a whole what I wrote was pretty crappy. This particular vomit is maybe about 40-50% crap. But that’s okay, that happens, I just gotta keep going. Prolific is better than perfect.
That said, I also find it helpful to reflect on the people in my life who have already died. There was this kid from VS who died right after finishing his O levels, back when I was in JC. We dedicated a song to him at VS’s evening of music and drama. I knew a guy from TPJC named Daniel S, who had a heart condition. I think the fella always knew that his mortality was much more fragile than the rest of us. I didn’t know him that well, but I think he did seem more chill than most people, and he also did more random things – travel, etc. Maybe he knew that he didn’t have a lot of time, and so he didn’t care for stupid shit. Wayne Thunder died 10 freaking years ago. At the time he seemed like this wise, mature older guy. But how old was he then? Probably about 10 years older than me. So I’m now the age Wayne was when he died. I could die tomorrow. Who knows? Life is crazy like that.
Going back to the question again – is it actually possible to live like you’re going to die tomorrow, if you know you’re probably going to live at least 10, 20, 30 more years? I think there’s a part of our subconscious that knows the truth, and doesn’t really buy our bullshit when we try to bullshit ourselves. We will never be able to engage our lives with the same urgency as when we know we’re about to die. That’s just like, the physics of life.
What we CAN do, though, I think, is contemplate periodically. I think about once a month is a good tempo for this. At the end of every month, consider the fact that your ‘month-self’ has died. Whatever you had hoped to achieve, see, experience – if you fell short, you fell short, and you have to be okay with that. Have a little mental funeral for January self, and then look forward to February. I’m trying to do this, I think it’s helping. And by helping I mean – it’s helping me live a more intentional, present life.
Oh, out of sync but I just remembered a quote from reddit. Someone asked his boss how his boss was so chill all the time. And his boss said, I paraphrase, “Son, one day you’re going to receive a phone call that the most important person in your life is dying or dead. And in that moment you’re going to realise how little anything else matters.” I try to reflect on that fairly regularly.
So to recap – take long slow walks, reflect on the fallen, reflect on your own mortality.
Another mental image comes to mind – you know that scene in Toy Story 3, where all the toys are in the incinerator, panicking at their impending doom – and then they hold hands? We’re all in the incinerator, right now. Reach out to your loved ones. Hold hands.
 I was just thinking earlier today – I like cigarettes. I’ve stopped smoking for months on end multiple times. I think my longest stretch was about 9 months. In that time I felt well and truly free of cigarettes, and didn’t need them. After a while I didn’t even think about them. But there’s something beautiful and poignant about cigarettes, to me. Whenever I hear someone say something like, oh I used to smoke but you’re just poisoning yourself, it’s just ugly and terrible, why do you hate yourself, -insert ton of negative rhetoric here-, I get the point, but I also get suspicious. I just tune out a little whenever I hear anybody feeling too strongly about one thing or another. Like people talking about only the good or only the bad about something – say, their ex. Assuming they weren’t in some sort of abusive, manipulative situation – what does it say about their judgement? You know what I mean.