Friday, February 23, 2018

"Sad" Truths about Life

First of all, I don't have the intention to send any chills down your spine or take you to the deepest depths of sorrow. Instead I hope this post can bring readers to a realization of and/or emphasis on the veritable truths of life.

Let's begin by thinking of our fellow humans who were born in the 1840s, a period of time when British biologist & paleontologist Sir Richard Owen established a group of magnificent animals by bestowing the immortally impressive name Dinosauria, which means "fearfully great lizard", to those then-thought-of-as-extinct creatures. To the best of my knowledge, no-one arriving in this world during that decade is still alive today. I repeat: no-one.

What does this mean? Well, this phenomenon seems hardly any surprising but contemplating it could be fruitful in building a good and wise outlook on life. After experiencing a brief gust of life, they all crossed the threshold and stepped into the death realm, something that is inescapable to all beings, including us humans. The average human lifespan sits roughly in the region of 60–70 years. If you think about it, our time on Earth is mind-blowingly infinitesimal compared to the age of the planet itself: 4.6 billion years – let alone the unfathomably vast amount of time that has passed since the universe began: 14 billion years. I was born in 1990 and I'll turn 28 this coming April. Therefore, I have more or less 40 more years on this evolution-friendly planet, before I join the majority. The total moment that I possess to be in the presence of my beloved family & friends, gaze at my girlfriend's soothing smile, be stuck in awe at gorgeous views of foreign countries, tuck into luscious Quiznos subs and pizzas, peruse (in both senses) best-quality dinosaur and English books, indulge myself in Jay Chou's sublimely composed, timeless music, and so on and so forth, is only 40 Earth revolutions around the sun left. And then my body will unite with nature as it decomposes either on the ground or, if cremated, in the sea, by means of detritus feeders – if no-one doesn't want to balm or, in some way, preserve it. In any case, nobody will be able to see any parts of my physical and mental selves "move". What will remain is my legacy, which is made up of all the things I have printed on the globe (however good or bad they are): my words, speeches, acts, behavior, dinosaur painting, blog articles (like this one) and such. That's all. Klinsman is gone. If I am lucky.

If not, I will kick the bucket even sooner. Humans are vulnerable beings; we are susceptible to illnesses, diseases, and pestilences (Just a few days ago the mother of my elementary school friend passed away at the age of 55, presumably because of cancer. To name another few, there are diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, malaria, and Ebola.) Consequently, some people are so unfortunate that their lives have to end earlier than expected, perhaps abruptly. And then there exist those who have been suffering from some affliction since birth (or even before). Sadly, some may not be able to survive long after they leave the status of a newborn. I was organizing my files just now, and in the midst of it I went astray and came across this photo:

Santos and me
Santos was a cancer-surviving child. A few years ago I read about his needing blood transfusion via Blood For Life Indonesia's Twitter account, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to donate a small amount of mine (type AB) to him. Nevertheless, he eventually had to succumb to his leukemia and breathed his last.

I am writing this article in a restaurant in South Jakarta, and I am going home as soon as I finish it. Is there a guarantee that I will arrive home safely? (FYI, it is located nearby) No. Life is highly unpredictable. We humans are so so terrible at predicting the future, as American paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara put it in his book Why Dinosaurs Matter. I might have an accident on the way home while riding a Grab motorcycle. Some other driver might exhibit their inanity by showing how speeding is really cool (to their imbecilic mind). It is also not difficult to come up with other death-invoking things, one type of which is natural disasters, which can happen all of a sudden. (However, note that actually "sad" things are not necessarily related to death; lifetime (and short-term) suffering can also be immensely depressing – think of those who need to undergo dialysis all their lives, for example.) It might be unimaginably distressing to know you are going to die soon. Nonetheless, American neuroscientist Sam Harris makes a point worth pondering in his Big Think video on death that, to add another "sad" thing, if we outlive our loved ones, it means we will be left alone, without them by our side.

It is always now, as Sam said in this eye-opening video. The powerful message is that we need to live our lives to the fullest in the present moment. People often forget that now is the best time to be happy; the past has always passed and the future will never come. Do not wait and get rid of all the "if"s and "when"s to really enjoy and appreciate the present. If you love someone, express it. If you have a keen interest in a field of study, learn about it. Be crazy and never let yourself be bound by constraints that are slowly gnawing on your potential happiness, which you do deserve. Do what you want while you are alive and while you can; otherwise, you will regret and feel the real sadness of life.

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