Somewhere along the way I’ve gotten myself obsessed with death – less to do with me being morbid and creepy and more to do with my even greater obsession with living.
Not just living with a little “l,” though; Living with a big “L.”
Little “l” living is us in that comfort zone that’s so undeniably and ironically uncomfortable — going to jobs we merely tolerate (been there), lamenting our unused vacation time (done that), thinking we’ll one day paint again or lose the weight or really learn to speak Italian once and for all — but without a plan to actually do any of it as the pages of the calendar flip by.
Big “L” Living is the pursuit of maximum aliveness, living Lives we’d be proud to look back on, without the faintest whiff of regret on our eventual deathbeds. Big “L” Living is having the courage to start things over– like jobs, relationships, gym memberships– even (especially) when it’s out of our comfort zones to do so.
Steve Jobs, smart man that he was (minus all those damned mock turtlenecks), spoke these poignant words in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything– all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure– these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Gulp. I’ll buy your stuff forever, Steve. And I promise to care less about what people think of me.
And try telling me this snippet from Hunter S. Thompson doesn’t grab you and either choke you or choke you up: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a Ride!’” We want the ride, please and thanks.
If the threat of death is what it takes for us to wake up and get on with breathing life back into our Lives, then I’m all over being a (perhaps a slightly more inspiring) version of the Grim Reaper. I’m going to start talking a lot more about this temporal scarcity thing (the feeling that you have only a limited time left to enjoy something), because we can so easily get caught living small “l” lives on our own versions of autopilot. In this grand adventure that is your life, how do you want your story to be told? Don’t you want to Live with a big “L?” Screw it– let’s just go with all caps LIVING while we’re here for such a finite amount of time. I want an all caps kind of LIFE. Come with me!