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Chapter 10: Confront Your Mortality – the Sublime (The 50th Law)

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Seneca

WHEN I NEARLY DIED IT MADE ME THINK—THIS CAN HAPPEN AGAIN ANY SECOND. I BETTER HURRY AND DO WHAT I WANT. I STARTED TO LIVE LIKE I NEVER LIVED BEFORE. WHEN THE FEAR OF DEATH IS GONE, THEN NOTHING CAN BOTHER YOU AND NOBODY CAN STOP YOU.

50 Cent

Thoughts about death can either paralyze you or push you to finally live.

For 50 Cent, he only lived up to his potential after his near-death experience. He woke up earlier and worked harder and for longer hours. A sense of urgency kicked in that didn’t exist before, and that was the turning point for him. Hemingway dreaded routine and banality, so he pursued a lifestyle that would expose him to death. He volunteered to become an ambulance driver during war time, he became a bull fighter, and a hunter.

Seneca imagined death in its gory detail, playing different scenarios of dying so that he would no longer fear its inevitability. He invoked a feeling of shame to help him do this. Since even the lowliest animals accepted their fate without fuss, it was a shame that he couldn’t do the same, he told himself. Stoicism was a productive way of dealing with death, in that it forced you to confront and to accept it.

The alternatives to using death as a catalyst for life come in two forms. The first is imagining an afterlife. Doing this dissipates any fear of death, and in this way, you become less fearful and anxious. The second is to immerse yourself in the moment, to find ways of distracting yourself, often with forms of easy entertainment. The problem, however, is that there is no guarantee of a life after death and pursuing fleeting pleasures quickly becomes boring.

It is not necessary to be as extreme as Hemingway, or to get yourself shot to appreciate life. But there are things you can do that can help you live a fuller life, with less regrets. One thing is to look for the sublime – a feeling of helplessness in the face of something much greater than yourself (ex: scaling a mountain, traveling to an exotic location). Another is to immerse yourself in purposeful work, to have a mission. Doing so imbues your time with meaning and staves off nihilistic tendencies that are a complete waste of the short stint of time you have. Finally, to avoid caring about frivolous things, petty disputes, and generally, anything that does not matter.  

The 50th LawChapter 10: Confront Your Mortality - the Sublime (The 50th Law) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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