I tweeted the following yesterday:
If I thought I’d die tomorrow, I’d be paralyzed with panic and terror. Stop telling me to live that way!
Yeah, we’ve all heard the popular saying “live as if you’ll die tomorrow”. The idea is that you’re supposed to live your life to the fullest because it’s precious and for all you know, you really could die tomorrow!
Just one problem. Think of any time in your past when something suddenly went wrong, like maybe you lost control of your car or almost fell off a high place or something like that, where, however briefly, you really did think you were going to die. You survived this, of course, as I find it unlikely any of my readers are ghosts. When death is imminent, you’re in a state of irrational mind-zapping horror and hopelessness. You’re not thinking “you know, I should totally go scuba diving!”
Paired with this is the saying “learn as if you’ll live forever”. This, too, is faulty.
In fact, maybe it should be the other way around. Maybe the whole quote should be “Live as if you’ll live forever. Learn as if you’ll die tomorrow.”
Why? Well, for one, telling people to live with the idea of death being just around the corner is just cruel. That’s not a motivator. That’s the equivalent of “give up all hope”. It also implies that it’s wrong to sit still or be idle for too long, that if you “waste” any time, then oh noes, you’re wasting your life that could be totally gone in the next 24 hours!
Oh, but along with this requirement that you must soak up so much life in every second comes having to learn as much as you can. So you must do lots and lots of stuff because you’ll totally die tomorrow, but be sure to, say, learn to speak Croatian because you never know!
If I’m going to die tomorrow, why the hell do I need to speak Croatian?!
No, if my death is imminent, any learning I’d be interested in doing, provided I could drag myself out of hopeless misery and depression, would be along the lines of saving my life!
Or maybe the afterlife requires one to speak Croatian? Such a small percentage of the world’s population can speak it. English, Chinese, Spanish, French, and Arabic speakers all make up such a huge chunk, yet I suppose without the Croatian for some reason, we’re all screwed. Because, hell, if religion says we need to satisfy some vague requirement of “good” for a favorable afterlife, who knows what other crazy rules there might be? Zagreb might be a holy city!
In fact, I’m not aware of much concern over not “living life to the fullest” as far as the afterlife goes. Once you’re dead, how much will you really care about what you did or didn’t do while you were alive? The only ones who care about this are those who are still alive and most likely can still do some cool stuff. You know which living people wouldn’t bother? The ones who are about to die! Because by then, what’s the point?
So, yeah, live like you’ll live forever, like you’ll always come back, like you’ll have more chances. Would you rather live life rushing around trying to see and do as much as possible because the clock is about to run out, or live it at a comfortable pace, where you’ll still see and enjoy plenty anyway because you aren’t stressed the fuck out?
As for learning, yeah, for that one, learn like you’ll die tomorrow. Or no, that’s not quite right. Learn as though you might die tomorrow or sometime soon. If tomorrow’s death is a sure thing, not much point, but if it’s merely a possibility, learn so you can avoid it! Like maybe what to do in a life threatening situation or safety tips or whatever else. You know, so you can live forever for all that living you want to do! Problem solved!