I think I first got the idea from Austin Kleon in his book, Show Your Work.
Here’s a short piece from him on the topic: http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/24956947198
In his book, he talks about how it inspires him to get a move on. They are good reminders of how short our time on earth really is and that we shouldn’t take it for granted.
Amen to that.
It always makes me think back to a neighborhood stroll a few years back. A guardian angel** [trust me on this] slowed me down a half-step as I approached a tall hedge that reached out toward the sidewalk.
If I hadn’t paused for that extra moment, I would have been road kill, courtesy of a driver who was blindly backing out his SUV at breakneck speed.
Did that moment launch me into a whole new existence? Did I stop and smell every rose along the way?
Nope. I should have and should continue to do so, but real life intervenes.
In his book, Kleon talks of Tim Kreider, who for the year following his own brush with death, did appreciate his second chance, but fell back into what he called ‘the busywork of living’.
So, a quick look at the obits not only reminds me of my tenuous existence, but it tells me I, like Austin, have projects to finish and good deeds to perform. No, my name won’t be spread across a marquee, but, now in my 60’s, it feels more and more as if part of every day should be spent making some kind of difference.
Back to the obituaries:
- the co-creator of what became the world’s longest running musical
- a ballet star whose career was derailed by a spinal tumor
- a man who collected 75,000 volumes of English language poetry
- a researcher who saved many from fatal cardiac disorders.
The question arises: What will I do? What do I care to do? Is it enough to try to be a solid family member, someone who values serving others more than picking up a larger check, a guy who would just as soon…well, that brought to mind the next question:
If I could wave a magic wand, what would I change in the world? What would I want mentioned in my obituary?
Assuming that ending famine, eradicating disease, and forging world peace were beyond my reach, I would:
1. build a massive college/trade school tuition fund for those kids who are otherwise saddled with crippling debt in the face of an uncertain job market.
2. finance construction of comfortable animal shelters and pay living wages for those who run them.
3. create an all-purpose recyclable plastic that replaces all the other types and obviates the nagging ‘does Waste Management take this?’ question.
4. provide accessible and abundant water supplies for those whose daily lives are reduced to traveling for hours for just enough to make it through the next 24 hours. [That Stella Artois commercial during the Super Bowl really got to me, as well as its longer version.]
5. raise money to preserve our national parks, reserves, and refuges.
6. build a foster-care support system that can fill the gaps and provide stability for the current overburdened system and its clients.
Time out! After I’d scheduled this post, I ran across this story and I want my obit to feature something like what this officer did…
So, will I do all this? Of course not, but putting this in words might nudge me forward to at least do my part.
And so, here I sit on a Friday night, not an inch nearer to finishing my current projects, but some worthy rumination just the same.
Such is the power of procrastination.
Note: Talk about procrastination. I wrote this post’s draft a month ago, but the seriousness of it didn’t fit with my usual approach and it felt stilted. Basically, it was more difficult to write and it needed time to sit. The time away from it helped. It’s not an award-winner [see point #1 from this post], but it’s done.