I was chatting with a friend about death this morning. She told me about a man on his death bed who told her what he would do right if he was given another chance at life – spend his time doing what he wanted!
A realisation hit me that nothing helps us prioritise (our lives) better than the realisation that we will die one day.
What better way to keep that realisation fresh everyday than this quote from Seneca (Letters from a Stoic):
Show me a man who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed.
The idea is as simple as it reads. But, we are all guilty of obsessing about some past decision or being anxious about a future event. Both the past and the future do not exist, now is all there is.
If the above thought is philosophical, today, I read a passage from Jiddu Krishnamurti (here) that helps me put that thought in daily life (and connect it with another).
Man lives by time. Inventing the future has been his favourite game of escape. We think that changes in ourselves can come about in time, that order in ourselves can be built up little by little, added to day by day. But time doesn’t bring order or peace, so we must stop thinking in terms of gradualness. This means that there is no tomorrow for us to be peaceful in. We have to be orderly on the instant.
It is only then [when the mind is completely still] that the mind is free because it is no longer desiring anything; it is no longer seeking; it is no longer pursuing a goal, an ideal—which are all the projections of a conditioned mind. And if you ever come to that understanding, in which there can be no self-deception, then you will find that there is a possibility of the coming into being of that extraordinary thing called creativity.
Connecting them, I would conclude: There are no failures (past), no goals (future), there is only doing and exploring (now) for the sake of it.
The bit that stuck me was how much the past and the future “colour” our choices and take our freedom away. Then, it is in the now that we can attain positive freedom.
In a major work of his life, in 1941, Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) explored the idea of freedom in his book Escape from Freedom.
Fromm explores the idea of positive freedom, which compels is to escape to it, and negative freedom, which drives us to escape from it.
Modern man, freed from the bonds of pre-individualistic society, which simultaneously gave him security and limited him, has not gained freedom in the positive sense of the realization of his individual self; that is, the expression of his intellectual, emotional and sensuous potentialities. Freedom, though it has brought him independence and rationality, has made him isolated and, thereby, anxious and powerless. This isolation is unbearable and the alternatives he is confronted with are either to escape from the burden of his freedom into new dependencies and submission, or to advance to the full realization of positive freedom which is based upon the uniqueness and individuality of man.
I find this quote so deep and meaningful. Its was just as relevant then as it is today, more so in light of technology addiction (the topic of conversation this year). That the same anxiety that leads to addition could lead to positive freedom is also a good reason to keep hope.