Kale! Gluten-free! Organic!
Every day, we’re bombarded with messages, messages we suck in like vacuums, about how to live longer, how to give ourselves a chance for as many years as possible.
Of course, we all also want to be healthy in the present.
But if we get to the heart of why these fads are so popular, why health is a constant obsession in this country among so many, I think we will find that it is not only the present we care about: it is the future. Specifically, the day in which we will die.
How much of this health obsession has to do with that? To eat organic doesn’t affect us now, it (hopefully) will help prevent something like cancer from taking our lives early.
And so wrapped up in our desire for health is one more simple desire: to live longer. Or, to be more accurate: to stave off death for as long as possible.
Which, you know, is probably a fair desire. Something you couldn’t blame a person for feeling.
But what if I told you that there were other ways to extend your life? Ones that didn’t involve buying expensive foods, learning every day how to hack our lives/bodies, or any other such physical tactic towards life-extension?
What if I told you that you could do something right now (well, after you finish this piece), right here (wherever you are), that would extend your life more than kale ever could?
What if I told you it was free? Also: gluten-free!
Sound too good to be true?
Well, my friend, you must have not heard of the product of the year, the item we all need but didn’t know it, the elixir of life, happiness, and absolutely pristine health.
That product? That incredible elixir?
To be more specific, your thoughts, your speech, your action.
To be even more specific: how do you spend your day?
If you’re like me, like most people, you spend a lot of time doing this and that. By “this and that,” I mean the empty sort of things.
We’ve even given words to some of these things: binge-watching comes to mind. There’s the easy stuff to address, like too much social media. Or on a darker level, drugs.
But there’s so much we don’t notice. Idle chatter, spending hours on a career that does not give meaning to our lives, reading the news.
Of course, all these things could also be good for us, could be part of the moments of our being alive. That’s why the answer is you and not “stopping stuff that’s a waste of time.”
So much of what we do, so much of how we live, is spent just living life. Like animals, we go about our lives unconsciously, living so many moments without purpose, direction, or meaning. We choose what’s in front of us, what makes life momentarily pleasurable, or we simply do things and act in ways which we don’t much think about.
This is not living. This is not being alive.
To be alive is to live consciously, through choice and conscious, aware, awake activity.
Even when we think we’re living life, we often aren’t. For example, we spend so much time chasing life around, like a dog who chases his tail. We think if we’re busier, if we’re more productive, we’re more alive. We see ourselves making progress at work, or at the way people look at us, or our popularity, and we think we are more alive. Wrong. We are just racing after numbers, grades, positions.
No, it is when we take that moment, step back, and decide “This action, right now, or this goal, in the future, this is what I’ll pursue because it means something to me,” and then we act on it, whether the momentary action or the pursuing of the goal, that is when we live.
Most of us are afraid to do this. Most of us are afraid to assess and look at our lives and truly assess if we are living them the way that means something to us. The way we’d want to live them if we were truly aware of our own mortality, if we truly accepted it and looked at it, held it up for examination.
So, it’s no wonder, then, that we get obsessed with organic gluten-free kale. It’s no wonder we spend so much time “life-hacking”. It’s no wonder we then still end up being the country that gets so little sleep because we’re so busy trying to be productive that all that life-hacking and kale goes down the drain when it comes to our health.
It’s no wonder because we are afraid of facing death, so we don’t just try to extend it: we try to pretend it will never happen. We try to pretend that time is an unlimited resource.
That’s what kale is there for. Life-hacking. Empty, ladder-climbing, careers. Money. Binge-watching. Drugs. Newspapers. Social media.
Ways to either pretend we can make ourselves live forever or to pretend that our time on this world is infinite. Or to simply to numb ourselves to the reality that time is the most precious resource in the world.
So, it’s not really about living longer, is it? It’s about living forever, or avoiding the thoughts that every moment wasted is gone to us forever.
But it’s sad, because it’s through these actions the we make our lives decidedly shorter. It’s through avoiding death that we cease to truly live. It’s through numbing ourselves that we bring death into our breathing bodies.
It’s sad, though, only because it is so prevalent. It wouldn’t be sad if we all took that magic elixir I mentioned before: ourselves. Our souls. Our true desires, goals, and ambitions (as opposed to our base ones).
Imagine if we simply accepted that life is limited, that life has an end date. Imagine if we, instead of avoiding time, looked it straight in the face, and chose to live that life of meaning I mentioned earlier? At every moment we possibly could, as much as possible. Not in the neurotic, life-hacking/dieting, way, but in a calm, focused way. One that takes our true priorities and allows them to rise to the top as we let go of the distractions, the false pursuits, the numbing.
Why, then, we’d replace what would simply be, as Seneca calls it, “time”, with life.
And so every moment in which you are essentially dead (what else do you call it when you aren’t living?) becomes a moment when you are fully alive. Eyes open, aware that every moment is a chance to raise ourselves higher, to do something more that is truly us, maybe even beyond us.
What if that was what websites wrote about, what social media interaction was like, what Buzzfeed wrote about, Lifehacker, Upworthy? What if that was our focus, inwards, outwards, with others, on our own?
Why, we’d be living longer than anyone had ever lived in history. We’d live longer than all those people who ate a pound of chocolate a day and told us that was their secret to being the oldest person alive.
Because the oldest person alive doesn’t care about chocolate. He cares about living. Making every moment in his life alive.
So, let me ask you… what will you do after this? Will you live? Or will you allow more time to pass?
That’s the question that will pervade you every moment of your life, not just now. The only issue is whether we choose to answer it or not.