A Thought Experiment
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
You know how people say things like, “if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you want to say and to whom?”
Or, “what would you do if you knew you only had 6 months to live?”
What would become important, and what would simply fade away, become blurred, indistinct, like a forest in fog?
Would the knowledge that your time is limited obscure all the petty grievances?
Introspective thought experiments like these are usually generated by a near-death experience or medical emergency, and so the experiment remains on the sidelines in the game of life; we’re too busy living to think about dying, right?
Plus, this particular idea, to live today as though it were your last day (which is a wee bit too dramatic for me so let’s think in terms of 6 months), is presented from a singular perspective: yours—you’re the one who’s dying.
As we enter the holiday season, and time with family and friends, how about flipping that perspective?
What if you pretended that everyone you interact with this week has only 6 months to live? And what if you knew that, but they didn’t?
Would you treat them differently?
Might you be kinder, gentler, more patient?
Would you pause a little longer, look a little deeper and maybe listen a little harder?
Would you resent the bigger hurts less and appreciate the smaller pleasures more?
I suspect so.
At least, that’s what struck me as I played this little game in my head this week.
So, I think I’ll extend the experiment.
Because so far, I’m seeing everything around me through a sort of throbbing, compassionate haze, a dense blanket of appreciation.
It isn’t that my life is so precious, but rather that their lives are. And they don’t even realize it.
But I do.
And that makes the interaction—whether client or clerk or family or friend—all the more important.
At least, that’s the game I’m playing in my head right now.
It’s interesting, though, how willingly my heart has hopped off the bench to join in.
It kind of kicked sadness to the sidelines and substituted gratitude.