Recently my wife and I attended an event featuring Terry Gross, host of the NPR radio show, Fresh Air. In addition to discussing her career of over 25 years she played excerpts from some of her favorite interviews.
One of her favorites was with Maurice Sendak, an author and illustrator. He knew at the time of the interview that he only had a short time left; he said, “Live your life. Live your life. Live your life.” He died soon after.
I thought of this when I read a book review of On Living by Kerry Egan. She’s a hospice chaplain. She said, “If there is any great difference between the people who know they are dying and the rest of us it’s this: They know they’re running out of time. They have more motivation to do the things they want to do, and to become they person they want to become. There’s nothing stopping you from acting with the same urgency the dying feel.” The reviewer added, “If there is one thing death teaches us, it’s how to live.”
This also reminded me of a quote from Steve Jobs; “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” He died at age 56.
We all have a finite time to live. What we do to make that time enjoyable and productive is up to us. We have a choice: to maximize our time in terms of enjoyment and productivity – or not. What we do to take care of ourselves, via exercise and healthy eating, matters a lot.
The Dali Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, said: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present. The result being that he does not live in the present or the future: he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
At age 79 I don’t spend time thinking about how much longer I may be around, but I do think about what I need to do to stay active and healthy, and what it means to lead a good life.
I like the phrase, “Live your life.”