Austin Kleon starts every day by reading obituaries.
Not to be morbid.
Not to obsess about death.
Not to channel sadness.
But to celebrate life. To focus on the present. To live every moment.
I’ve been thinking about the need to be aware of our mortality for a long time. I’ve written on the topic several times.
But Kleon really got me thinking about this.
We don’t have to be excessively morbid or sad or whatever about death. I’m not trying to be edgy or dark. I’m just stating a fact disguised as an opinion: We’re all going to die. We’re dead. A death sentence. All of us. Everyone we know and love and everyone we don’t know.
It doesn’t have to be so big and scary. And even if it is, we should use it as a tool right now.
It can be the perfect reminder to live.
The perfect amount of death.
The Infertility Plague
What if there were no more kids? No more babies? Like in P.D. James’ The Children of Men.
Seth Godin asks better questions than any journalist I’ve ever seen. That guy would have been an amazing reporter or television guy if he wanted to be. And he asked that one the other day.
Godin fires wisdom and thought-provoking commentary to my inbox multiple times per day. I feel guilty quoting the same guys over and over again, but hell. He’s the best for a reason.
He wrote his No more kids? post a couple days ago, and I think it applies to this “perfect amount of death” idea quite nicely.
“What if, in some sort of sci-fi solar flare cataclysm, it was impossible for humans to have more kids? No more babies.
How would we treat the last generation? Would we say to the youngest student on Earth, “sorry the school is really run-down and crowded and poorly staffed, but we don’t want to invest in you?” Would we let the last generation grow up in poverty, or would we do everything we could to ensure that this one last time, we did it right?
To make the example a bit more banal, what if your organization discovered that it would never have another new customer? That the customers you’ve got now are the last ones you will ever have… Would you treat them differently?
Sometimes, when it seems like there’s an endless parade of prospects walking by, it’s easy to discount this particular person.
No new prospects, no more new web visitors, no more untouched email lists… And far more dramatically, no more new students, no more chances to open doors, inspire genius or create connection.
I wonder what happens when we treat children and customers like maybe, just maybe, they’re the last chance we get to do it right.” – Seth Godin
We Can’t Forget to Live
We all have the right to spend our time any way we choose.
My way is not necessarily more right or wrong than anyone else’s. In fact, it’s a certainty my way is more wrong in many instances.
All you have to do is look around you. At all of the wasted life and opportunity.
I’m not denigrating other people’s choices. But most people aren’t happy about them. It seems to me that most people regret the way their lives turned out, at least in some respects.
But what if we were permanently mindful of the fragility of it all?
What if there were no more kids?
What if there were no new friends?
What if we all had our Countdown to Death™ watches ticking away on our wrists?
You still choosing the huge wedding over world travel?
You still choosing the mortgage over financial freedom?
You still choosing the cubicle over things that fill your soul with joy and inspiration?
The perfect amount of death will remind us to do that, I think.
To not be afraid. And to not be sad.
Just an effective daily reminder.
To kiss the girl.
To laugh more.
To dance when it sounds good.
To take the leap.
To speak up.
To run faster than the dream so you can make it your life.