I remember this line from “What’s eating Gilbert Grape” once in a while. The young character of Arnie played by a 19 year old Leonardo DiCaprio is mentally disabled, but in a moment of innocent clarity, he cheerfully proclaims that “I can go any time you know.”
Any one of us, right this moment, could die.
Out like a light. Or a candle. But this heart-stoppingly critical notion hardly ever bubbles up to the surface of conscious thought. Maybe we deny our own deaths to ourselves so that we can carry on with our everyday lives without a sense of tragedy and fatality, as a self-preservation mechanism. But pondering our inevitable end is not all gloom and murk. There are benefits to this morbid meander.
If you stopped to think, at least once a day, that you will die, possible someday soon, what would you do differently? Would you go ahead and give your baby that extra snuggle? Open the door for that stranger? Wear your favourite hideous, but comfortable, jersey for all the world to see, testing whether it really matters what other people think? Would you pray salah on time and give more charity?
How long is a human life? We don’t know how long we will live, but on a good day, when you’re feeling optimistic, a long lifespan of an average human could be around 90 years. There’s an excellent couple of articles by Tim Urban on his blog, Wait but why? where he measures the span of a life in winters, summers, baseball seasons (and some other metrics). Seriously, just click through and read the two articles, the first being Your life in weeks, and the follow-up called The tail end.
In The tail end, Urban invites you to consider your current age and weigh it up against your potential 90 year lifespan. If you’re 28, that means 28 summers enjoyed, with just 62 summers left. 62 more springs, winters and autumns. If you’re lucky.
If you eat pizza once a week, that’s around 3224 pizzas left in life.
But that isn’t the most notable thing. The part about relationships is the bit that will get you thinking. If your parents are 30 years older than you, that’s 32 years left with the folks, if they’re also lucky to live to 90.
But – you spent most of your time with your parents before the age of 18. Like, 90% of your days were spent with them when you were a kid. That time decreased when you started school. That time is probably much less now if you live away from home.
So even though you may not be too close to the end of your life (but really, only Allah knows about that) you may be near the end of the time you spend with some important people in your life.
Urban says “It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end. It’s a similar story with my two sisters.”
Therefore he offers 3 takeaways: live close to the people you love, prioritize, and make an effort to spend quality time with people who are important to you.
It’s a new year, and that means five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes of 2017 to fill up, to live in, to enjoy or squander. The choice is ours.
By the way, Leo DiCaprio got his first Oscar nomination for his role in Gilbert Grape, but only last year, after 5 more nominations and after over 20 years did he finally win. I wonder how much that statue means to him.
All this to say: be good. Or better.