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Confronting our Mortality

Looking back over my lifetime I reckon I've had it relatively easy compared to many folks. I can think of only two occasions when I thought my number was up. One was during the Falklands war, sitting on top of 30,000 tons of jet fuel while a bunch of trigger-happy lunatics armed with heat-seeking missiles took pot-shots at other ships nearby. The other was when my life hit a very low ebb and I stood on the top of a cliff wondering whether I was going to step off. I'm still here, so it's obvious that both situations eventually ended well.

Since early 2020 we've had the Covid pandemic rampaging across the world but until very recently I've been one of the fortunate ones; I've avoided catching the virus and I've had all the vaccinations and boosters on offer. My lifestyle keeps me well away from crowds of people most of the time, so my risk of catching the lurgy is relatively low. So far, so good, for me at least.

Not so good for plenty of other people. My mother, for instance. She had a long life and was still going strong at age 91 until Covid got her. She passed away in March 2020.

My wife - my life partner, the love of my life - is at much greater risk. She has next to no immune system because it's been suppressed by the treatment she's on for rheumatoid arthritis, so it's vitally important that she avoids catching Covid 19. Without a functioning immune system, she'd have nothing to stop the virus from doing its worst.

All was well until July this year, when Covid finally caught up with her.

To say that she got sick is something of an understatement. She's been in and out of hospital a couple of times. Fortunately on the second occasion the medics found a drug that helped, and she's now out of the hospital and slowly, very slowly, getting her strength back.

At a follow-up appointment last week, her doctor dropped a bombshell when he said that for the first couple of days of her hospital stay they thought she wouldn't make it. We knew she was sick of course but we didn't realise it was quite that serious. It was a huge wake-up call and a reminder that none of us is here for ever.

You know, there’s nothing quite so effective as a good, old-fashioned existential crisis to start you thinking about what’s really important in life. I mean, I know there are some big and potentially worrying things going on around the world just now, but what’s the point in me worrying about them when I might be dead tomorrow, or next week?

That might sound somewhat fatalistic or even nihilistic; que sera sera and nothing I can do will make the slightest bit of difference.

So what should I do? Give up now, hide my head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, and pretend it’s not really happening? Focus on myself and my own needs while the world goes to hell in a handcart all around me?

Sure enough I could do that, but I have a sneaking feeling that if I do then through cowardice or failure of self-confidence and self-worth I’m just abdicating any responsibility for taking action.

The fact of the matter is that I’m not a helpless, passive observer of what’s happening in the world. Like it or not I’m part of it. I’m responsible for my part in it. The big question is, though, who is going to hold me to account for discharging my responsibility?

The short answer is, no one but me.

My cliff-top experience led me to start questioning what my life was all about, and I subsequently discovered that once you start down that path there's no turning back. I discovered my personal values - the values that had always been there and had been directing the course of my life even though I wasn't consciously aware of them. With that discovery came the understanding that I didn't have to leave my life choices to pot luck. I could get active in seeking out and exploiting opportunities to transform my life into something much more satisfying, more fulfilling, and - most importantly - more in alignment with the authentic me.

So that's what I did.

I accepted responsibility for my own destiny. I made choices and decisions that were in alignment with my core values. I started to live my life on my own terms. And you know what happened? For the first time in my life, I felt that I was achieving something real. Life had a purpose, and I was living it every day.

Now, you might be reading my blog and checking out my website and thinking, "why is he doing this?" Perhaps this post has given you a clue.

On my own I can't change the world, even though it very obviously needs fundamental change. What I can do is firstly to change myself so that I'm living authentically, from my heart, and that will (it already has) transform my own life. And then secondly I can help other people - folks like you - to do the same, to live authentically. If enough people start to do that then the world will, inevitably, change. For the better.

I do what I do because I am who I am.

Why don't you join me? You don't have to wait until your own existential crisis drives you to take action.

"No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood." - Douglas Adams

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Sep 28, 2022

There is a saying, I'm not sure where it came from, (and I am sure if someone reading this is really interested, they can look it up), it goes like this: "If you don't learn the lesson the first time, you are going to be forced to repeat it." We're talking about "lessons" that life throws at you here. Because we are alive, we make experiences - some good, some not-so-good (and that could be putting it mildly in some cases). Yet instead of having to repeat certain "lessons" in life, (have one bad lesson - uhh experience - after another) there is a magic wand that anyone can use to get out of that cycle, and in your posting…

Bernard Kates
Bernard Kates
Sep 28, 2022
Replying to

Too true, Debby. Often we miss the lessons life's trying to teach us because when something we call "unpleasant" happens, we shrug it off or we ignore it and hope it will go away. Then we go back to living as we were before. Nothing changes and before we know it, we fall into the same hole all over again. We put it down to bad luck. The third time, the hole is even deeper and the fall more painful, but if we're not paying attention then we might fail to learn the lesson, again. And so it goes. I stumble along, regularly falling into deep holes that I never saw coming, and I believe that's just life. It's eve…


Thanks for sharing your personal story Bernard, very moving. Your story resonates with my thoughts lately that it’s no use being religious, spiritual or whatever if you are not putting it to use. Whether it’s helping the planet, saving animals or helping your fellow human, action needs to be taken. We are on a life journey to be our best but also do our best. Have a great day

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