Tag Archives: #death

Forgotten Story

We were lucky enough to meet a lovely couple friend of ours while at the wedding of a common friend in the charming city of Pas Robles. We literally ran into them and decided to have a very relaxing brunch. While the food did a great job of satisfying our appetite, it was the conversation which satisfied our souls.

What caught my attention was the quote that one of our friends mentioned – ‘Life is a story forgotten by its author’. The context was he was talking about his dad, who has senile dementia – so short term memory loss. And his dad was a greatly accomplished man – went to Harvard. And now in some ways, it is unfortunate (or fortunate) that he cannot remember his past. When he mentioned the line – it just caught my attention.

All of us do amazing things in our life for the sole reason that we all live the human predicament. And I am not talking about going to an Ivy school or winning Nobel prize – every one of us has a beautiful life whether we believe it or not is a different story. Each one of us has gone through a unique circumstance that has made us who we are, and the universe loves uniqueness – no two of us are alike. And we end up being attached to what we did or how the society expected us to define ourselves.

I went to London Business School – a prestigious MBA school if you move around in those circles. I was one of the youngest to get admitted to the school, which has a 25% acceptance rate. That means for every 100 students who apply only 25 get selected. And while we lived in London, it was a significant portion of my identity. London Business School defined who I was. And then we moved to Columbus, Ohio, and almost 99% of the people I met were not even aware of the existence of London Business School. I also had one gentleman ask me what an MBA was. I went through an identity crisis during the first few months. And it made me realize that I did not know who I was, honestly. Who I was – was a collection of the places I had been to and my accomplishments. Not having to define myself was freeing, made possible by not having to move in circles where I have to define who I am to gain a place in the societal hierarchy. I still use it when needed but knowing very well that it is not who I am.

We do all these great things and at the end of the day (I mean death) it does not matter. If we were to lose our memory today would what we have done till date matter? Then, the critical question is, what matters? Well, if we lost our memory, then the only thing that matters is the present moment – NOW. Who we are cannot be destroyed by erasing our memories – and most of us have barely started on the journey to understand who we are. Why wait for death or amnesia to begin finding out who we indeed are?

Who Am I?

Do We Realize?

Life as we know is very fleeting, but we live as we are immortals. Do we ever wake up in the morning feeling so grateful because we are alive, our dear ones are alive? No, we take it for granted that we will wake up in the morning every time we go to bed.

I am not proposing that we live in fear of death every second of our lives and as Goenka Ji says, ‘Cry on our birthdays because we are one year closer to death.’ All I want to do is to bring attention (however fleeting it might be) to the beautiful feeling of being alive which we seem to have permanent amnesia for.

Even if we do experience death of another person, we think about it for a few hours, few days and almost never in the context that we will also die but how we miss the other person. When in reality there is a lot of commonalties between death and birth.

In both instances, there is a magic that happens. In birth, a person suddenly starts existing and in death suddenly a person stops existing. In both cases we are naked and left only with ourselves – our family, well-earned grades, paid off loans – nothing we bring with us or take with us. We come with our body and leave with it.

Life and death are not opposites but two different sides of the same coin. If you know how to die well, that means you know how to live well. And if you know how to live well, then you are ready for death. What does living well or dying well mean to you? No simple answer to this question.

Why is that when we live we never give death a thought? We never live like we are going to die at any moment – Because we are disillusioned. The illusion has become a reality and we are so caught up in it that nothing is real for us. All the things we do in this life we think of it as permanent, real – something that we have control over. When in the blink of an eye we will willingly/unwillingly leave it all. And this is the reason why talking about death is a taboo because it reminds us of how fragile and delicate our lives are. And we don’t believe in that – it’s like emperor’s new clothes, nobody is willing to say that the emperor is naked.

Again, do not think that I am advocating that everybody you meet – you tell them, ‘you are going to die’ albeit a true statement. Given the immersion in our different realities in this Maya, at the very least ponder on the fact that if you are going to die then how will it¬†change the way you live your life. If reading this blog has made you grateful that you are alive, even once that that is one time more than never.¬†

What will change in your life now that you have been reminded that death is inevitable?

Long Term – how long is long?

I remember my hindi teacher at school telling us this story. It went something like this:
There is a bus that is going from A to B. On the way to B it runs into a oncoming truck and everybody on the bus dies. People come running to the accident to help any survivors and all they see is this 90+ year old woman who gets up with the help of her stick. Everybody comments on who lucky she is. She gets into a rickshaw so that she can go to the bus stop. The rickshaw runs over a tiny stone, loses it balance and overturns killing the old woman in the process.

What do you think is the moral of the story? The time of your death is pre-determined, you will die when your time comes, not a second later, not a second earlier.

There maybe some of you who are thinking well if the old lady had her seat belt on – she could have survived. Yes, that is correct but then it wasn’t the right time.

At the same time I am sure this story and the conversation so far is making you uncomfortable. Talking about death or dying does make people very uncomfortable. I have wondered why? I will be sad when the ones close to me die – it will leave a hole where they filled it but death is one of the most certain things in life. The one thing we know for sure is we will die but still we live our entire life denying it. The quote below says it all

So, how does it relate to the topic of the blog which is “Long Term”. A lot of the leadership and self-help books talk about “Long Term Thinking”. What is your five-year plan? Where do you see yourself in your 2-3 years? The real long term is a little different I think.

When you are trying to prove you are right to a co-worker – that’s when you think long term. You are going to die anyways does being right on whether the status report should say X or Y really matter. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should not have opinions but the intensity and impact can come down a notch if we keep the long term goal in mind.

As everything else this kind of long term thinking is also a choice – I am just presenting a option , a different way of thinking. If someone overtakes you while you are driving – we have two choices a) get mad and ruin precious moments of your life or b) life is too short to get worked about something you are not going to remember in 24 hours.

“If somebody was to say – you have two hours to live.” What will you do? This is not a morbid question but a check on who well you are living your life. Are you living in the future or past? Or are you living in the moment – you are satisfied and at peace with where you are right now?

This is how I measure my happiness level – The art of dying is in essence the art of living. If you don’t believe me read this article on reasons behind Bhutan’s high Happiness index.