So just a head’s up. This post is a bit morbid. I have been thinking about death quite a lot these days.
Mostly I think about death in the context of the DBM project. The thought that everyone I meet may be dead before midnight can be the ultimate leveller.
A few months ago, when I began this project, I struggled to imagine that someone might be dead. It felt like I was forcing myself to imagine a fantasy. It felt like a lie somehow.
Like most of us, I have lived my days smug in the knowledge that life was endless. I had years ahead of me to achieve what I wanted to achieve and so did everyone else. That trip to Ireland that I had been putting off since I was fifteen would happen one day, just not today. Perhaps not even this year. But I had plenty of time to make it happen.
It’s an interesting fantasy that we have woven around ourselves. The truth of course, is that people die every minute, every hour, every day. People we don’t know. People we do. People we love. People we don’t. They are all ages, all genders, all nationalities. Death happens to us all. And one day I will die too. One day you will die. It’s our one common denominator.
We would like to think that we will be roughly 100 when our lives finish. However this is also not true. We know that most of us will be lucky to reach eighty and many people die young. Some will be very young.
We would also like to think that we can buy more time with our lives. If I live a ‘good’ life then I should live longer. But we know this is also not true. There are plenty of good, kind and generous people, both young and old, who die, and plenty of people who are monsters who seem to have tapped into the spring of everlasting life.
Here’s the thing: We cannot barter for extra time on this earth. We can only use the time we have, the best we can. We can eat well, exercise and be good people, but at some point all of our lives will come to an end.
Which brings me to immortality.
It is said that when we die we essentially have three deaths.
The first is when we breathe our last breath and our lives leave our bodies and this earth.
The second is when our bodies physically break down and return to the earth. We are physically no longer here.
The last however, is the one that interests me most. The last death is when our name is spoken for the last time in this world.
With the first two ‘deaths’ we may extend our lives by looking after our wellbeing and physical health, however the reality is that one day we will still die. Our innate being and our physical bodies will still pass.
Our immortality, however, is bound up in the legacy we leave behind. Who we are and how we have lived our lives will influence our third death.
Now here I should say that many of us will influence our immediate families and communities. Our children, our nieces and nephews, our grand children, and great nieces and nephews will be the ones who speak our name beyond our physical death. They will be the ones to pull out the family photos and tell stories about us, in a similar way that we talk about our own grand parents and ancestors. Or don’t.
Our communities will talk about our contributions. The local organisations and clubs that you are a part of, the people you work with every day, will talk about your influence and speak your name depending on your contribution. Depending, of course, on who you are. Depending on what you contribute.
Your legacy doesn’t have to be world wide either. You may not change the world. Like the story of the little boy and the star fish, you may change the world for just one person.
To me, that’s immortality; living beyond your own life on earth.
We may not have full control over the kind of death we have or when we may die, but we do have complete control over the kind of life we live, the people we influence and our own immortality. We have control over our third death.
Who you are every day, every week, every year will decide who will be the last person to speak you name.
Live your life in a way that decides the outcome of your third death.
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged