Sunday, 7 August 2011

An Hour To Live, An Hour To Love

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something” Steve Jobs, Commencement address (June 12, 2005)


Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamites. He read his own obituary which was erroneously printed in a French publication, meant for the passing of his brother, which read, “The merchant of death is dead” and went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” This obituary was apparently his motivation behind the creation of the Nobel Peace Prize. He did not want to be remembered for death and destruction, but for peace instead.

There’s a powerful exercise in Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in which he asks you to visualize your own funeral.

Picture three people getting up to say a few words about you, the type of person you were, what you stood for, how you lived. The first speaker is a good friend or family member. The second is someone from your community. The third is a work colleague.

Close your eyes and imagine all three speakers giving sincere and glowing testimonies of you and the life you lived. Everyone listening is moved to tears as they remember how much you meant to them, noticing that the world is a little less bright now that you’ve gone.

In movie, legend has it that Death (Angel of Death) is a human skeleton clothed in a black hooded robe. He wields a scythe and carries an hourglass. The scythe is the harbinger of death. The hourglass is the measure of a lifetime.

Everyone has their own hourglass. Each hourglass holds the Sands of Time. When all but the last precious grains have fallen to the bottom, Death will seek its owner.

Like all legends, there is some grain of truth behind it. Time is a valuable, but finite, resource. In a lifetime, we can make money, fulfil our ambitions and do the fun things we enjoy doing.

But beware, for there are always forces lurking around threatening to steal away our precious time. They are the thieves of time.

The most common ones are those who do not cherish the value of time. They are people who are constantly late for appointments due to traffic jams, rushing for some last-minute chore, and worse of all, losing track of time.

But the greatest thief of time is we. In life, we strive. We are all driven to climb to the next level, much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. There are several roads leading up to the peak. The road well-trodden is long, winding, and filled with plateaus.

But there’s also the road less travelled. It may be more steep and treacherous, but it’ll take you faster to the peak, and it has fewer plateaus.

Whichever road we take, we must never linger too long. Patience is virtue, but procrastination is the thief of time. Life is short, but not simple. Good opportunities don’t come around like the postman, but rather like a comet. You should strike when the iron is hot, and it’s hottest when it’s still young and raw.

But sadly, much of youth is wasted on the young. Most of the young folks hesitate, and he who hesitates is lost. Weighed down by a backpack filled with insecurities, excess material baggage and taxing relationships, we struggle to move on.

We think too much, and by the time we act, there’s not much time left to live for. As John Lennon nicely put it, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

Open your eyes.

Figure out what it is that you want to be remembered for, by friends, colleagues, community members, and everyone else. Work towards becoming that memory.

Don’t let the precious grains in your hourglass just slip away. Be a master of your own time and space, so when Death comes knocking on your door, you are ready to welcome him with arms wide open.

Like Prophet Muhammad once said “Death is a blessing to a Muslim. Remember and speak well of your dead, and refrain from speaking ill of them” 

Note: Life is what you do while you're waiting to die.

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