All of life is a dream walking, all of death is a going home. – Chinese Proverb
Priorities are for people who have a limited amount of time left to live. In a way, that means all of us. Though we are not when, each of us are given a death sentence on the day we are born. Morbid, but true. Though progress in our lives depend incorrectly on the assumption that we will be here for a long time, the quality of our lives can be increased by more accurately seeing that entropy is a normal part of life.
The reality is this: We will all atrophy. We all have a limited amount of time. And we need to make the best use of it. We need to prioritise.
What life is too short for
To not be truthful. The difficult thing about telling the truth is that it hurts someone, you or the person you are telling it to. But life necessitates truth-telling, allowing people to understand one another’s needs or pains more clearly.
There are always three truths: the truth, your truth and their truth. Our human limitations allow us the best view of our own truth, a narrow view of the other’s truth and an almost absent understanding of the actual truth.
When I tell my truth I expect to be heard, and also to hear what the other’s truth is. However, it is futile (and indeed a waste of time) to weigh these truth and decide which is nearer to the actual truth. It is only meaningful for me to see how, since we both now know each other’s truths, to help each other.
To not work on a grand goal. Either because of upbringing or because of what they’ve been told about how life should be, most people believe that they are meant to be ordinary. They become used to the gap between them and their heros, looking up to them, never once thinking of their heros as potential peers.
Many beliefs are self-fulfilling; the things we think of as impossible often turn out to be. In my first year of trying to start a serious business, my friends told me it was impossible. We are engineers by training; we have no business experience; what will we sell, who will we sell to?
I didn’t believe them. I made a promise to myself that I will find someone who will tell me that not only is it not impossible, but also: I know how and I will show you. Something that seemed so impossible to me back then is now my reality.
We need to set grand goals for ourselves, not to be too eager to settle into comfort and certainty. Life is too short to only have woken up early, punch in, punch out, pay our bills and die.
To spent time in unprogressive arguments. I don’t think all arguments should be avoided. The blind avoidance of arguments for the sake of it can lead to confusing results. Arguments, the good ones, can lead to harmony as differences get resolved and the people involved gain a better understanding of what each person needs. I have the idea that such an understanding is not achievable under more peaceful circumstances.
What needs to be avoided is unprogressive arguments – arguments that only persist to make a person feel more right in their ability to pass blame. These sorts are the ones where blame and hurtful comments are passed around but nothing is really said. You never listen to me. You always think I am wrong. You always believe in stupid things.
I don’t have time for this. If someone feels I have hurt them in some way, I would normally agree. I might not agree on the facts, but I don’t believe I have the rights to invalidate someone’s feelings. And normally the argument would end there.
To spend too little time with your parents. Contrary to what many of my peers from college have done, I have stayed intentionally close to my parents. For this I am the object of much confusion. You are young, ambitious and full of potential, why do you not want to go further?
The answer: my parents won’t live forever. As a teenager I had the opportunity to talk to and read about adults and their dying parents. I wish I had spent more time with my mother (or father). I kept hearing this over and over again. I wondered, why not?
Career seemed to be the unanimous answer. If career was indeed important, why did people regret spending less time with their parents? I concluded that it is not as important as our two-something year old selves believe it to be.
I decided that I would try to keep myself close to my parents, willingly taking on the risk of missing out on better opportunities. Doing this led me to learn something interesting. I see and understand my parents differently through adult lens. I talk to my parents differently using adult language. With these, I resolved most of the angst and conflicts that plagued me as a teenager, allowing me a clearer view of my self sans the misconceptions I had of my parents.
By having a clearer view of who I am has ironically allowed me to pave a career that is more aligned with my values and strengths.
No doubt if life was longer or if I was immortal I would live differently. But since I am an object of impermanence, the sooner I accept and respond to life according to this unchanging truth, the more time I have to create a peaceful death.
I had once asked myself if I would treasure eternal life as Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China who willingly and obsessively swallowed mercury in an attempt to live forever. Would I want to live forever?
I want to, but not in world.