How To Stop Dancing Like A Puppet
Living Life As A Dead Man Walking
“Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?”
— Marcus Aurelius
Why is it that we think we are going to be alive by the end of the week?
There is a strong possibility that we will, but all in all we don’t know what is going to happen, nor do we know what our lives will be like by the end of the week.
There is a strong possibility that not much will change at all. There is also a small chance that everything will change.
In general, we go through our lives without thinking too much about that small chance. I’ve seen and experienced enough of those small chances to understand that anything can happen to anyone at anytime — none of us are immune to the whims of fate.
There is a paradox here: If we go through life as if it will never end, we never truly experience it. Expecting that everything will always be fine is a surefire way to be shocked and disappointed when it isn’t.
On the other hand, having a clear understanding of the inevitability of death can allow us to experience each day as if it were our last. And there is the small chance that it could be.
The idea is not to think about death constantly, it is to always be aware of the reality of death, so that each experience that life has to offer becomes that much more precious.
Once we fully realize the inevitability of death, we become extremely grateful for what we have, including our breath, our senses, the love of our partners and families, and on and on. Life becomes more of a treasure trove than a list of chores.
A couple thousand years ago both the Stoic Philosophers and Yogic Sages voiced a similar opinion. “Keep death on your shoulder so that you will always understand how precious and fleeting your life is.”
What if we woke up to a diagnosis of cancer, or a verdict of guilty? What if we lost a loved one tomorrow, or our jobs? Every day thousands of people experience these things and worse. Every day thousands of people deal with these adverse circumstances and move on.
Resilience in the face of adversity is a supremely human trait. We bounce back from horrible shit and learn how to live again. We gain perspective from what we live through and take our new eyes and ears into the future.
Cultivating an awareness of death doesn’t make us morbid. On the contrary, it instills a certain type of joi de vivre in our hearts, because with that exquisite awareness of the fleeting nature of life comes a gratitude toward what we actually have in each moment.
“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.”
— Marcus Aurelius