My family has lost loved ones this year and a dear friend of ours just lost her father (our heart goes out to her and her family). For our friend and her family, her father’s passing was sudden and unexpected.
In thinking about the process of life, birth and death must be addressed. These universal experiences are the bookends of our lives.
My young daughter often asks me about death and dying. I tell her that life is a lot like the stories we read before bed. Each has its beginning and each has its end. But what happens in between, well, there are any numbers of possibilities.
The Buddhists will tell you to think about death, daily; about the impermanence of life. In thinking about your mortality and the fact that you, too, are going to die one day, just as all of us will, a shift of consciousness can occur. When one comes to meditate on their own mortality, one often approaches life in a more immediate way.
Truly, you can die tomorrow and suddenly. The proverbial bus could hit you.
You have grand dreams about what you want to do in the future (near and distant). You are walking down the street with a spring in your step. Today is not too hot, not too cool and the sky is blue. You think about the stresses you deal with in your life. Work, family matters, money, etc. You are looking for a pick-me-up and grab a cup of coffee. “I just love the smell of this coffee”, you might be thinking. A friend is across the street. You call their name and step into the street.…when Bam. You are hit by a bus.
End of your story.
It does happen…and surprisingly often.
The bus is a metaphor. There are all sorts of “busses” that can knock the life out of us.
Truly. You can die tomorrow. None of us knows what tomorrow brings.
This thought, this void, can scare some people terribly. Fear of the unknown is one of our greatest fears, as people. The unknown is uncontrolled and is a mystery.
Knowing that we are, in fact, quite fragile (we people)—no match for a bus, lets think about how we want to live today.
- What life do you want to live?
- What contribution do you want to put into the world?
- How do you want to be remembered?
- What words would you hope people use to describe your character?
- What impact will you have, during the story of your life?
- What stories do you imagine people will tell about you?
- What stories would you like them to tell about you?
- How would you like those pages, your story, to be written?
Write those pages and Live what is written.
In meditating on my own mortality, I start to think a lot about others and their mortality. That makes me feel more compassionate. They have families too, most. They have dreams, stresses, needs, and fears, just like me.
Such continued thinking makes my perspective turn towards service. When one feels compassion towards others, most, I think, want to then help those others—in some way.
The American Declaration of Independence starts with “We the people”. Serve your people.
- Want to make a meaningful impact in the world?
- Want to give to something or someone, outside of yourself?
- Want to be of value to others?
- Want to contribute to a cause that you believe in?
- Do you admire and dream of heroism?
The answer to all of these questions is “Service”. I like to invoke JFK:
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
The only way to be necessary to others (as an artist and a person) is through the act of service. When you are addressing others needs, you are needed.
Being needed is not a bad place to be. Being needed means that others perceive your existence and your contributions as being full of value. They see you as valuable.
Decide your meaning. Determine your value. Use both, in the Service of others.
Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN Teaterakademi).