You can think a lot about life and mortality when you’re not feeling well. It’s the frailty of the human condition making itself obvious. The human body is the vessel that carries our consciousness in this world, and when it is struck down with an immobilizing ailment we tend to discover the exact limits to our strength. That’s part of the reason that during the recovery period of such bouts of misfortune, your mind will always feel the well-deserved gratitude and heartfelt appreciation for “the crown of good health that only a sick person can see.”
Modern medicine has added many years to our lives and we’ve become so accustomed to it that severe illness and death are really frightening because we’re constantly shielded from seeing them with our own eyes. They’re no longer a daily occurrence in our lives as it once was for our ancestors who led a life more in tune with nature.
I can hardly count the number of times that I would have succumbed to certain death has it not been for the effectiveness of modern medicine.
My memory give me highlights of several serious infections that were incapacitating and potentially fatal that were swiftly alleviated and/or cured by the miracle of antibiotics. I don’t think many people appreciate the simple fact that easy access to antibiotics saves countless lives countless times every single day.
That’s not to mention that most of the people living in today’s world were fortunate enough to have been vaccinated as children and were not part of the statistics of infants mortality of days gone by.
These thoughts can take hold when the pain medication kicks in and there’s a reprieve to think and wonder, not only about the amount of havoc a microorganism can wreak on your world, but also about your life and what sort of legacy you are leaving behind.
I think a lot about my father who passed away in 2018 from cancer. I can’t help but wonder about his last thoughts.
It’s a “Memento Mori” moment instigated by the timeless words of wisdom by the Stoic philosophers. A rather morbid version of what people in politics call “the optics.” You get a new perspective on life, and you take stock of where you are, who you are and what you stand for.
If this is it… if life ends now, will I feel like I’ve done everything I can to become the best version of myself? Will I feel like I’d done the best I could with the hand I was dealt? Did I live a life of purpose, discipline, and service?
It’s no secret that we are living in historical times. The coronavirus pandemic is going straight into the history books like all other events that affected most of the population of the world. It’s a time of uncertainty and fear.
I was certainly worried about being infected and the possibility that I have infected my family. It’s kind of interesting how testing negative had cast a calming spell on my demeanor even amidst the gut wrenching pain I was feeling.
It’s not easy to get around the fact that the world has changed in a significant way in one year. But that’s exactly what happened to everyone else in the history of mankind. Wars, famins, pandemics, floods, depletion of natural resources, and every single life changing event was a surprise to someone else who had to adapt and think of creative ways to make it through challenging times.
We too can take solace in the knowledge that we can only manage the things that are directly within our control and let go and let God. Because Stoic philosophy teaches us that it doesn’t help to worry about things we can’t control.
Sickness is sobering because it interrupts your daily patterns and forces you to look at yourself from the outside. You start to examine your existence and what it means to you that you are living this life you are living right now. For the majority of us that would reflect a lot shortcomings and areas of deep dissatisfaction that loom over and haunt our consciousness every day of our life.
Suddenly your age is not just a number you stopped counting a long time ago but a hard figure that tells a story about you.
Having a reason to live through all of these turbulent thoughts and trying times is what eventually helps you make sense of it all. As Nietzsche once said: He who has a “why” can live through almost any “how.”
So always start with your “Why.”
Why you choose to take your medication and turn away the hand of death knocking on your door? Some weary travelers choose to open their doors instead.
Why you keep trying to get through this day with an optimistic attitude? Because not everyone have the mindset that things can get better.
Is it love?
It should be. Because once you tear away everything else, that’s the one thing you reap out of life in that infinitesimal blip of existence we call life.
You come into the world wrapped in love, you do your time and you seek to find it, sow it and propagate it everywhere so that by the time you punch out your time card, you will become again wrapped in love.
If there’s one thing we can be certain that we take along with us into the afterlife it sure is the love we have and the love we leave behind.
So, remind me again, why are you unhappy?
Is it the sting of unfulfillment in your daily job which feels like an unlimited sentence of servitude to an unending hierarchy of masters?
This too shall pass, one way or the other. You’ll find meaning in doing that other thing you have on the side that gives your life meaning and pleasure, focus your attention right there instead.
Don’t drown your mind in the unlimited amount of narcotic and addictive distractions that numb your mind and stifle your awareness of time’s passing.
Think of this Netflix show you binge-watch for 10 hours straight just to teleport your consciousness from your dull and dreary life into the imagined creation of someone else’s exciting life. Now think of the empty hole you feel inside after you watch the ‘season and series finale’ and suddenly you are teleported back into your own life where you feel the need to kill the disappointment and pain immediately by finding another addictive show.
It’s the same for other chemical hacks like drugs and alcohol that only serve to steal you away from your life and teleport you away, only that you can take so much, and then the fleeting sensation is gone, leaving only the pangs of pain that stares at you in the mirror of your shame.
What you are doing in these two scenarios is that you are seeking a saviour. Something or someone to stop all the pain from the outside. You’re passively waiting for God to save you, chemicals to numb you, and music and tv to make the outside world invisible.
It’s all from without, and that’s why it builds up a dependency on something you can’t control.
On the other hand, think of something else that also has the effect of making hours shrink into minutes and seconds, all the while bringing a tremendous sense of fulfillment and joy that is not ever going away because of the pride and sense of accomplishment that soothes your aching soul. It’s throwing yourself wholeheartedly into the magnificent world of your inner creativity.
Think of the immense pleasure of your mind being in a state of flow, where it just keeps humming and purring like a well tuned engine that is doing a difficult task with mastery and ability.
It’s the high performing athlete, it’s the chess grandmaster, it’s the pianist and violinist, it’s the painter, it’s the author, the lyricist, the poet, the gardener, the mathematician, the astrologer, the basketball player and any other person who finds his pleasure from within through creation and the pursuit of mastery.
You can’t figure out why you are unhappy? I’ll tell you. It’s because the only true elixir for happiness is to stoke the fires of creativity deep inside you and seek mastery of something hard and worthwhile.
Feeling, and more importantly, knowing that you did this yourself with your own hands, your thoughts, your knowledge and while doing it, not only did it cause time to fly, but that time wasn’t a waste, you gained something during that time.
There’s no hollow feeling, there’s no sense of loss, there’s no thinking “It’s all over, now what?”
That’s because of what every single person who has mastered a skill or a vocation can tell you, that there’s always room for improvement. You can always get better.
Peace and love.