My first article for the Life Matters column, published in India Se magazine in April 2014.
A Life-Changing Choice
- by Pamposh Dhar
This past week, as I followed the amazing story of a plane that appeared to have vanished into thin air, I couldn’t help but think about the uncertainty of life and how we take this essentially uncertain thing – our life – so much for granted.
We receive this life as a marvelous gift, yet we seldom stop to give thanks for it. At the same time, we know we are here on this planet on borrowed time, yet we act as if we will live forever.
Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that some of her “more evolved” friends felt they should have a terminal illness to give them time to put their lives in order before they die and, especially, to say their goodbyes. This really surprised me – more so coming from apparently enlightened people.
No doubt illness, like everything else in life, has much to teach us. Terminal illness can certainly teach us acceptance and patience – if we are ready to learn those lessons. But rather than wishing illness upon ourselves, would it not be better to live every day knowing that this body that we live in is ours not forever but only for this lifetime; knowing that this lifetime, in this body, is finite? Not only that, but that this life is precarious – we have no knowledge when precisely it will end.
Benjamin Franklin famously quipped: “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Leaving aside the joke about taxes, we know that if we are born to this life we are certain one day to leave it too. We know also that average life expectancy has nothing to do with our own individual life spans. Lack of knowledge is not our problem – but lack of acceptance often is.
Acceptance of these two key facts about life – and death – can completely transform the way we live. This transformation came to me the hard way, with the sudden death of someone very close to me at the young age of 20. A few days after that I made a pact with my husband – we would never part, even for 10 minutes, on a fight.
It has been 13 years since we made that pact. For 13 years, it has held. Over the years, I have silently extended this pact to all my relationships. I simply do not part with anyone at all close to me on a sour note. We can agree to disagree, we can agree to continue the argument later, but we say bye on friendly terms.
This is a simple principle that can change one’s life. I know, because it has changed mine. It can change yours too. It can be extended also to leaving one’s worldly affairs in reasonable order every day. Make that will today, move that investment now, write that email, make that phone call – do what you want to do and do it now.