(I had started a Benjamin Button-style story in response to the Daily Prompt last night. I planned to finish it this morning. Then the news broke that Robin Williams had committed suicide today. I deleted what I had written. It no longer seemed relevant.)
The Daily Prompt today asked: “You wake up one day and realize you’re ten years older than you were the previous night. Beyond the initial shock, how does this development change your life plans?”
The answer is it does not change anything at all.
We are given the life we have. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring. Waking up tomorrow ten years older is better than not waking up at all. While only the foolish would have no plans for living beyond tomorrow, it is a terrible thing to live every day in fear of death. There is a fine line that we all must walk, savoring every day we live while ensuring a future for ourselves and those who depend on us.
Many people envy the rich and famous. They seem beyond our mortal problems. We like to believe that their wealth and celebrity make them happy. Anyone with their fame and fortune couldn’t possibly have any problems that they couldn’t easily handle! As if throwing money at anything will solve it.
“Money can’t buy happiness” is a cliche, of course. People are far more complicated than that. Once our basic needs are satisfied, then our struggle truly begins. Eventually it all devolved to what the meaning of life is. More specifically, what is the meaning of YOUR life? Sure, you just bought your third Ferrari, and a fourth beach home in the Maldives. Then what? You shout the question at the heavens. When you had nothing, the answer was simple. Work to provide for yourself and your family. Save for your kids’ college funds, and maybe a week’s vacation in the tropics. After that, you return to the grind. Work to live, not live to work goes another popular cliche.
In the end, regardless of your belief in a higher power or an afterlife, how you feel about THIS life is wholly dependent on how you anchor your own consciousness. I posted this quote written by Alan Moore, from his graphic novel “Watchmen”. The context is different, but its fits the passing of Williams so well:
I heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed, life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears.”But doctor” He says, “I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.
Drum roll. Curtains. Sometimes, the simple feeling of being alone and without purpose or future is enough to overwhelm. I’ve been there a few times in my life. I don’t even have clinical depression, just the regular, human kind. Sometimes that’s enough to start you down the darkest of paths. The hope is that for most of us, there’s enough light in our worlds to lead us back off that path. I know that for some, they need help and understanding, and I pray that they have that. No one deserves to walk off into the darkness alone.
We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
Find beauty, romance and love in your life. Carpe diem. Seize the day.
From Dead Poets Society, 1989.