The message has been given over and over again by those who know that the final days or hours are near. Randy Pausch learned he had terminal cancer and stood up to give The Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon. In this lecture he told his class and eventually the world that “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” He spoke of recognizing being in the moment and taking advantage of it, because after all, at some point or another we may realize that we don’t have as much time as we think.
Morrie Schwartz was living his final days as a result of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. When Mitch Albom found out about this he spent every Tuesday with him learning the lesson that in this life you must learn to love yourself and those around you. He went on to write Tuesdays with Morrie.
It’s really interesting how western culture often doesn’t value our elderly – oftentimes where life’s lessons are held. We seem to get caught in a trance of automaticity and routine and life passes by without recognizing what’s most important.
One reason for this may be because of our denial of death. If you are a person who has someone close to you who has been dying or if it is yourself, you may notice many people not wanting to talk about it. Death makes people uncomfortable; it’s a reminder that we are all impermanent here.
This denial of death is one of the main culprits for not recognizing how precious life really is. When we avoid what we’re uncomfortable with, we close ourselves off to something very important.
I’ve quoted this before, but it’s a good reminder. Rumi says,
“Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.”
We can take a lesson from those who are dealing with the passing of life; things seem to become a lot clearer. All the erroneous baggage we carry seems to slide off as life’s essence emerges. Of course this doesn’t always happen, but enough of these stories have emerged that makes it worth paying attention to.
Randy’s and Morrie’s messages are not unique, it’s just that our minds make the snap judgment that it’s bad to have that reality in our awareness and so auto-pilot takes over and we avoid it. At the same time, we avoid seeing the wonders of everyday life.
We can learn from the fact that life is impermanent.
As author and meditation teacher Stephen Levine says, “If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?”
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.