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You’re not going to die tomorrow

By Billy | May 27, 2011

Lately I’ve been having deja vu like experiences where I get to vividly imagine being where I am at some moment, but to watch it as if it were hundreds of years before.  Yesterday, for example, I walked along the city wall with the smell of horse shit and the sounds of children laughing, the Lainsitz rolling, and dogs barking filled the air.  I am certainly not the first person to ever stand exactly where I stood and experience exactly those sounds.  In fact, since 1292 when the wall was built, I bet more people than I could count have experienced these things right in that spot. As I stood there, I chose to experience joy.  But as I have been exploring this old world and contemplating the past, I often come to the thought that it might someday get boring.  Especially when I am mentally time travelling from 1311 to 2011, I think of how long that wall or tree or house or place that people usually drink beer at has been there.  I occasionally imagine being there for all of it and thinking that surely I’d get tired of it someday.  Today as I read JRR Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion,” I began to contemplate the existence of the immortal elves in Tolkiens cosmology.  Elves can live forever, and even after their death they are gathered up at the end of times with a different type of life.  I suppose a little like some types of Jews.  For this reason, they experience living in a vastly different way, often finding it difficult to understand why humans find a single year of their life so important.

This got me to pondering.

You’ve probably been told once or twice to live life like there’s not tomorrow.  Aside from that alliteration being difficult to type on the first try, the message in this advice is probably never fully contemplated.  Even if we were to analyze it to its fullest, I don’t think we’d end up with anything worth participating in. Usually when someone chooses to live like there’s no tomorrow, they’re really choosing to live like tomorrow doesn’t matter as much as today.  That means you can drink more, spend more, eat more, sow your emotional or sexual energy less responsibly, or whatever other form of indulgence you prefer, all at the expense of tomorrow.  It’s all ok, though, because tomorrow’s opinions, feelings, thoughts, and ideals are less valuable than todays, we say.  We choose to value today’s pleasure more than tomorrows debt, hangover, relationship trouble, etc.  It’s a world of constant inflation; spend now because the currency (time, energy, actual money, etc.) is getting less valuable as we degrade it every day.

Now I’ve beaten the inflation of value into the ground, let’s consider the exact opposite of living like you’ll die tomorrow.  What about living like you’ll not die in a very long time, which is more realistic than the option of dying tomorrow.  Moreover, what if you live like you’ll never die.  How would you live today differently if you knew you’d be around in 200 years.  How would you live today if you’d already been around for 200 years.  Let’s not even think about the possible torment of immortality.  200 years is enough.

Two hundred years.  That would mean I was born in the 1780s.  (By the way, I was exploring my friends newly purchased, very old farm house in eastern Kentucky about a year ago and we found a box filled with letters written during World War 2.  Among other cool things there was an invitation to a “Nineties Party.”  At such a party, guests — living in the 1940s — were to dress up as if they were living in the 90s.  [think about it for a moment] Themed parties are a very old tradition, aparently.) Today I drank coffee outside a shop sitting under a great big umbrella in the rain on a supposedly dreary day in Weitra, Austria.  It was nice to sit there and hear the rain, it was nice to struggle with a new words (nothing says foreigner like snapping your fingers while trying to remember the word for “pay.”  I’d like now to…uh..uhh.. ), it was nice to read about made up legends of love and hate that touch the soul in stirring ways.  Was I living my life to the fullest today?  Was I living like it was my last day?

I think if it were my last day, I’d be pretty darn happy with it. No, I didn’t experience sublime euphoric feelings due to a flood of endorphins in my brain from doing something exciting, and I wouldn’t make a very good movie right now, but it was still a good day.  Even more than that, since all probability and every day of my life so far leads me to believe that tomorrow will be another day, I don’t have to pretend I need to cram every good experience in to this short 24 hour period.  In a way, living like today is not anywhere close to your last day, you have the opportunity to honor this very day even more.  You allow today and tomorrow to actualize to their full potential, and will probably grow to learn from yesterdays more fully than if you looked at yesterday is an experience to top with todays thrills.

When you have a long life ahead of you, tomorrow is not a deadline, but just another one of the infinite stepping stones you have.  There is no pressure to dramatically change your life in radical ways and check it off your list before you die, but there is total freedom to do so.  This way, you’re going places because you want to rather than because you must.

After being around for hundreds of years, you’ll probably get tired of action movies, good computer graphics, and the so called accomplishments of human beings.  I’m just thinking.  You’ll probably be much more interested in things that are completely out of control of a single human. I think of my life in terms of years, and sometimes in terms of 5 years, and very infrequently in terms of decades.  My church homegroup in Harrisonburg had several people who were 60+ years old and told their life story.  There were a few times when they said, “so for that decade I lived in such-and-such country.  Then we moved to…”  That was it.  10 years summed up in a single sentence.  The same space on the timeline took me an hour to talk about took them less than a minute!  I imagine after hundreds of years one would begin to think in processes.  Eras would turn like seasons.  Processes would begin to show themselves everywhere.  Seeing how things change over hundreds of years would be a project worth studying.

I think there is something to this.  I don’t think it matters that we wont be able to see how the garden will look in 300 years, I think it’s still possible to enjoy the processes that happen everywhere.  Our 100 years are simply a microcosm of the infinity that the Universe has existed.  You’ll get through a thousand years of living by learning to love every raindrop, and I think you’ll get through your 100 years by learning to have the same awe as if you’d seen them for a hundred hundred years.

The other thing about living as if you’ll live forever is that you’ll probably keep your space a little neater than if you were just going to drop out soon.  Although your body may come to an end tomorrow, it almost assuredly isn’t the last day for everyone else.  You will continue on well past your last day with the legacy you leave.  Do you want to leave one that says, “I don’t care about anything but what my body experiences while my brain can function,” or do you want to leave a legacy that stands for something more than  your brain and your body.

Tangentially, I really love that children can play with a toy motor cycle and upshift their imaginary gears eternally.

Also, as promised:

Moskauer Muffins.  Muffins, by the way, is a loan word pronounced exactly the same in German as in English.  Thank god.

Austrian people like them more than me.

With rose schnapps.

Topics: This is my life | Comments Off on You’re not going to die tomorrow

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