Sunday, December 4, 2011

As if You Were Dying

Easter Island Statue
"Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case." -- Annie Dillard, The Writing Life.

Another way of putting this, would be to live each day as if it were your last; to seize the day, to make the most of whatever time you have.

If you are dying, there is no time for procrastination, no time to wait around for a better time, another day, another year; there is only today, so it's got to happen now or never. But that is only true to some extent. What you want, may not be possible today. If it is dry, and you yearn for the rain, no amount of yearning is going to make it rain if the conditions are not ripe for rain. So what it means is that you make the best of what you've got, and you make the attempt for what you want, today, to the best of your ability. If you want rain, you don't wait around for the rain to come to you, you come to it.

That's good advice, but it's much easier said than done.

In this quote she is directing her advice to writers, to look upon yourself and your audience as dying, as having limited time, so you've got to really make the most of it. Perhaps this is it. Last day on earth, for me and you. Is this really the last thing I want to say? Is this really the last thing you want to read? Is this really it? Is this really the best we can do?

Shit, that's a lot of pressure. Don't think I can follow her advice, completely, but I do appreciate the sentiment. No, I hope you spend you last hours offline. The last place in the world I would ever want to be in my final hour is on my computer. I'm a gambler though, so this is my crap shot, racing against time, trying to beat the odds.

But what Dillard says is a reminder how extremely precious each of our lives are, yours and mine both, that there really is no time to waste on being mediocre. That we really need to make the most of it as soon as possible. Pay attention. Breath deeply. Smile widely. Be excellent. Be passionate. Be courageous. Be honest.

Is it possible that having all the time in the world, gives you all the more time to waste on trivial pursuits? That the more time you think you have left, the more likely you will waste  your time, and not give it your 100 percent.

So, the advice to live as if you were dying, is not telling you to give up and to stop living, but it's telling you to live more. It is a reminder to be more mindful of each moment, to make the most of each experience, and to never take life for granted. Because death is like your shadow, that is always with you, is like your personally appointed judge and guide, watching your every move, just waiting for you to slip up, and to sneak up on you and tap you on your shoulder when you least expect it.

Death XIII Tarot Card

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