Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Power of Mortality

Steve Jobs in his Stanford address mentions that one of the most powerful tools he uses to get things done is, ponder over death, the realization that we are all here temporarily has the amazing power to clear away the mundane. I believe in everyone's life there comes a time when they realize that they are nothing but frail pieces of matter that will dissolve. This can be brought upon by a near death experience or by the death of a loved one, or the realization simply strikes. At this point you can take two paths, ignore the event and push the thought out of your life, and resume with the routine, or you can pause and meditate over this fact. Most people choose the former, I decide to experiment with the latter.

My observations were, first there is a feeling of extreme hopelessness, and perhaps anger at that hopelessness and a strong desire to forget about it. This phase can severely disrupt activities as it will inevitably lead to the question "What's the point?". This is followed an urgent need to get as much done as possible (in pursuit of an imaginary bucket list perhaps), this can last weeks and will lead to decisions which will be completely out of character. The third phase is reflection, which is that you will reflect upon and regret many of your actions (especially in the distant past), at this point popular wisdom will instruct us not to regret, move on and live in the present (and so forth), however I am of the opinion that this is a great fallacy, as the ability to regret is one of the fundamental things that make us human, not feeling regret is a sure sign of psychopathy, when we feel regret, we are feeding the positive loop of not repeating actions that have bad consequences for the people they affect (including oneself), and may also provide a form of closure.

The reflection moves on to analyzing important people in one's life, one's parents, one's relatives,one's friends and so forth, followed by a desire to reach out and right past wrongs, help people, and reassure oneself that one is not alone in this cold dark universe. This has a positive on both parties, as it is a back-stroke for the ponderer and a reminder to those being analyzed that they too are not alone. After this is the most important phase, acceptance, acceptance of one's finiteness, of one's goals, aspirations, relationships, and mortality. This will result in inner peace and harmony. And then the ponderer can begin using this acceptance to get things moving.

Whenever we are faced with a decision, or a task, we can always pause and reflect, this will automatically clear the choices which are not ideal, and lead to optimum solutions. Basically enable us to lead fuller lives and grant meaning to our actions.