As I scout for weekend hikes in Vancouver, the grandeur of the peaks towering over the ocean depths and the prospect of conquering one of those crown jewels is liberating. I think of the unreachable and my doubts evaporate, leaving me with the curiosity to discover my inane desires and tacit ambition. In addition to this jolting realization, there have been cues that have prompted me to think this way since the past day or two. I’ll share one of them with you.
A cancer survivor was narrating her story on social media. I was going to scroll over as my deep respect for their strength is outweighed by the number of times I’ve heard similar stories. As horrible it may sound, we instant-gratification seeking millennials sometimes place incessant scrolling for content over touching human tales. However, I stopped midway as something she said caught my eye. You surely must have heard the adage ‘what would you do if you only had a month to live’ that is programmed to unleash panic followed by a series of unrelated and overcompensating actions by most, if not all. (I for one, would’ve flown to Aruba and laid on the beach with my margarita till death do us part). And as you might’ve guessed, our cancer survivor in question, heard something similar from a Buddhist monk. What startled me was, the way he administered this advice. She was not urged to ask herself this question, but was asked to envision her imminent death instead. As she imagined her organs fail and her breath leave her body, the stillness of death became a resounding reality. She wasn’t startled because it’s not a ‘what if you die’ experience which treats death like a probable event rather than the imminent reality. Rather, she realized why must we make barriers for ourselves and let shame, indecision, societal expectations and our own insecurities become a million deaths of our dreams, when you can and must only experience it once?
So folks, as I lug my weight around mount Seymour, cursing my sore legs, I will certainly stop to cherish the summit and question my mind, ‘What have you to fear my friend? You’re only going to die once.’