Live Like You Were Living

#1
There was a death in the family this week...

I'm about as far out on the perimeter from the deceased as you can be within the family circle, so I have had a certain detached perspective on it that has allowed me to simply observe the grieving of others without having to attend to any strong emotionality on my own part.

Tonight, at dinner, one of the closest family members said to me, "You know, you are not promised any amount of time here. I know I could end up gone in six months - or tomorrow. You have to live each day like it's your last."

Something about the way he said it reminded me of that country song "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw. That is to say, I found it silly - like some sort of Hallmark card cliche that appears to say something but doesn't say anything at all. The lyrics to the song are as follows for those who don't know it:

He said
"I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin' 'bout the options
And talkin' 'bout sweet time"
I asked him
"When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How's it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what'd you do?"

He said
"I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying"
There's more lyrics to the song, but this gives you the gist. It came out in 2004 when I was just finished with college and was in the throes of a suffocating existential dread that I am grateful to be free of today. It was played ad nauseum on the radio and was the sort of song my girlfriend at the time would turn up on the radio and say, 'I love this song!"

Anyway, I was struck by a sense of futility in the idea of living each day as though it were my last. What does that mean, anyway? If I lived today like it were my last day alive, I wouldn't bother going to work. I'd probably tell my boss to go fuck himself, and I'd tell a lot of other people the same. But, if it weren't *as if* it were my last day, but was actually my last day, I'd likely feel so paralyzed by the sense of utter meaninglessness of telling people off that that I'd do nothing at all. I certainly wouldn't go "sky diving" or "rocky mountain climbing."

Thing is, you don't actually know how you'd live if you knew you were dying (unless you have been/are in that predicament). In any case, the underlying fear of *not* living like it's your last day is... what? Being an automaton only half aware of existing? If anything, the whole effort to think it through just increases my anxiety and sense of, "Oh my God, when the day comes that I know I'm dying, I'll feel like I didn't live right and regret things - I can't let that happen!" However, being in that state of mind is a terrible way to live, especially if it's your last day to be alive!

Hence, it seems there is no point in even thinking about it. We are all, after all, dying. Therefore all of us are already living like we are dying. Perhaps that's why life is so shitty for so many of us.

Maybe instead of aspiring to live like we were dying, we should aspire to live like we were living.

That seems a much better thing to aspire to.

What say you?
 
#2
I think you should live as if at the end of your life you will experience how you affected others from their point of view - as if you would feel all the happiness you caused and all the pain you caused.
 
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#3
Hence, it seems there is no point in even thinking about it. We are all, after all, dying. Therefore all of us are already living like we are dying. Perhaps that's why life is so shitty for so many of us.
For me there is a big difference between 'knowing that we are all dying' and coming close to or facing death prematurely.

As someone who had a life changing, potentially fatal brush with the grim reaper, I have one overwhelming memory of my emotions after the event. I was very grateful, more grateful than I ever even considered before. Could I change so that I was ticking off a bucket list ? No, not really. I suppose it depends how long you have and what your worldview might be. If I had a month to live and I thought that might be 'all I had' I might see things differently. It might produce some interesting choices to ponder if you were the selfish type but had a family etc.
 
#4
I think you should live as if at the end of your life you will experience how you affected others from their point of view - as if you would feel all the happiness you caused and all the pain you caused.
Sure, I think this is a good thing to aspire to… But I'm not sure that this is the only sort of value system we should attempt to live by. There is plenty that I do that really doesn't involve other people. At least not in any clear-cut way. Still, I think simply the quality of my subjective being, at any given time, somehow matters. I want to cultivate that to be as good as possible - to be as rich and meaningful as possible. Avoiding doing harm to others and actually doing good for others is certainly something to really work toward. But is that it? Somewhere in the New Testament, and I think Jesus himself said it, it says that our doing comes out of our being-that's my paraphrase anyway. Jesus also said something about when one cleans the inside of the bowl the outside becomes clean too. This quality of life concern that I am getting at really comes down to cleaning out the inside of the bowl. It's about the inner life not so much the outer actions. I know the near-death experience life review really stresses our impact on other people… But isn't our actions toward others really just an expression of our inner being?
 
#5
Loved your initial post and my reaction to that horrid song is the same. Seriously, go sky diving the last day you're alive? What is that, a six hour ordeal between training, getting equipment on and checked, the flight up, the jump, and the post processing? And I'd be doing this with a bunch of strangers at the jump school since no one in my intimate circle is a sky diver?

Right. Completely stupid.

No, I'd spend that last day likely trying to make sure I'd reconciled myself with those I care about. Comfort those that would be most impacted by the loss. Maybe eat a good meal and hopefully laugh a little at some old stories.

Do that every day from now forward and the results would be:

None of my loved ones would want anything to do with me as I'd be driving them crazy with reconciliation thoughts and weird, ego-centric feeling comfort.
Gain 4,000 pounds from eating only my favorite, most comforting foods/beverages every day.
Loss of my job and income as I sure as hell wouldn't put 8 solid hours in that last day.
Likely a horrid spiral into depression.

Yes, that song sucks and was a pure, commercial play. Sure as hell wasn't poetry.
 
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