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Between Two Identical Voids
Or- Momento Mori
Life is a spark between two identical voids, the darkness before birth and the one after death. — Irvin D. Yalom
In Greek mythology, there was a fellow named Tithonus. He was a prince of Troy and was noble, brave, and handsome. He eventually caught the eye of Eos, the Goddess of Dawn who, because of a curse put on her by Aphrodite, had a thing for humans.
Eos fell in love with Tithonus and took him away to live in her castle from which she launched each morning in her chariot to bring the dawn and pave the way for her brother Helios (the Sun God.)
Eventually, it dawned on Eos that Tithonus was human and would age, so she asked Zeus to give her lover immortality, which he did. But, the gods are tricky. She didn’t ask for Tithonus not to grow old.
So, while he couldn’t die, he did get gray, feeble, and, at least in Eos’ eyes, ugly. Eos moved on to another, but not before turning Tithonus into a Cicada.
It just so happens that today is my birthday. Happy birthday to me. For some time I have considered myself to be slowly approaching middle age. As of today, that means that I need to make it to 108. I think it’s possible, but the key, of course, is not just to live a long time like Tithonus, but to achieve what Dr. Peter Attia calls Healthspan in his excellent book Outlive.
While I believe in doing the things that will improve my Healthspan, the big three, of course, being: sleeping well, eating well, and exercising hard, I’ve also come to view the coming years differently.
The first step is to embrace death. I know that sounds morbid, but it’s big with the Stoics, as demonstrated by their motto Memento Mori: Remember, you will die.
Or as French Essayist Michel de Montaigne said, “ To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us, let us deprive death of strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death.”
Speaking of keeping death in mind, the average life expectancy in the U.S. has been declining for the past two decades and now sits at 76.4 years which means most of us are hitting middle age before our 39th birthday.
I believe we can make every effort to increase our health span while at the same time adopting a Momento Mori mindset to keep things in perspective. Acknowledging that life has a 100% mortality rate can rob it of its power, and recognizing that our time is limited should encourage us to make the most of it.
Time is short. Wake up and use it well.
Read. Easy by Nature
Think back over the past year and select the five worst times you’ve had. What did they have in common?
Journal prompt: How can I do less of the things that make me feel that way?
Let me know what you come up with.
“To learn to be always in a state of meditation means never to let your vital energy wane. You would never allow it to do so if it were certain that you were to die tomorrow. It wanes because you forget about death. Grit your teeth, fix your gaze, and observe death at this moment. You have to feel it so strongly that it seems as if it’s attacking you. Fearless energy comes from this. At this moment, death is right before your eyes. It’s not something you can afford to neglect.”
— Suzuki Shōsan (1579–1655)