obituaries (and what will yours be)
“You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries, they only asked one question after a man died, ‘Did he have passion?’”
movie quote from Serendipity
Let’s be clear.
I didn’t watch all of Serendipity.
Just the ending.
While I like John Cusack (and love looking at Kate Beckinsale) this ain’t my type of movie … until the closing scene. For two reasons.
The closing scene probably ranks in my top 5 “best use of music in a movie scene” rankings. It is absolutely the perfect use of Nick Drake’s Northern Sky:
I may have lost my man card on that.
So let me go to the second reason I like Serendipity … the quote I used to open this post.
This quote is actually when John Cusack’s buddy towards the end of the movie says “The Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: Did he have passion?”
I loved it.
Absolutely fucking loved it.
But me, being me, had to Google whether Greeks truly did write obituaries or not (because I found that thought to be fascinating and I wanted to be sure it wasn’t just some movie writer making it up it).
It turns out that they did and didn’t. This is the philosophy of Aristippus of Cyrene (c. 435-356 B.C.) and his grandson who were founders of the Cyrenaics. They were Greeks. But their philosophy didn’t represent all Greeks.
So it was Greek but not all Greeks.
It’s a neat thought.
And the quote has nevertheless made me think about obituaries … and passion and, frankly, what if passion is missing in our life … and what the hell does that mean.
And it makes you think a little about how we will get measured at the end of our lives <note: because if we don’t write our own obituary … it remains in the hands of someone else>.
In my mind passion for things in life rarely spontaneously ignites … it develops slowly and purposefully <despite what writers & poets and whomever want you to believe>.
It takes some development because it takes some consideration. Sometimes passion is sneaky. I imagine I believe you feel it most when you take time to consider the things in life (actions) that have meaning to you. and then begin to focus on those things.
I also believe that passion does not seek you out … it doesn’t randomly hunt you down and say “hey, look at me!”
Instead … it is dependent upon you. You have to discover passion thru a pursuit of things that are interesting to you.
That being said … well … maybe the Greeks were on to something when they discussed respecting the cultivation of personal passion as important to living life to its fullest.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … fullest. This suggests that accomplishment is empty <or less than full> if you reach a goal on technical skills alone. Or simply because you worked harder than anyone else.
(wow. I like that thought)
Think about that.
This thought doesn’t suggest you shouldn’t work hard but, all things being equal, nothing can be a “fuller accomplishment” than one accomplished through a work & passion combination. That means anything else is ‘less than good’ or ‘good’ … but not great.
And let’s think about this … and I will use my passion of teaching the next generation as an example.
If education is taught by rote … there is no passion … there is only technical skill. So even if they “succeed”, where succeed is measured by making some grade, they have not really accomplished anything because they have no passion.
That summaries a lot of my thinking on education and the existing education system.
Back to obituaries.
And I am not going to let myself off the hook on this one. I will bear the scrutiny of public self-retrospection.
So if I were to die today would I be content with what my obituary will say?
I’m not sure that I can say yes at this moment.
I wouldn’t be.
I do not know … but I guess that’s the question that I’m going to have to answer at some point.
All I really I know is that I am going to have to answer it <or as noted earlier … someone else will when all is said and done>.
Frankly, I am not sure if the issue is in my past <forgiveness for what I may have done or not done> or if the answer lies in the future <what I have yet to achieve>.
And, yes, they are two edges of the same sword.
All I know for sure is that my obituary would be incomplete as of today.
And I guess once we all measure the words of our “today” obituary we begin to assess the inevitable ‘where do we go from here’ question.
Sometimes we do things we can’t take back. And that’s that. What you have done is who you are (today).
But what you have done is not who you will be.
In my case it has been nearly … uhm … nearly 37 million seconds 10,000 hours, 14 months – . with several thousand seconds slipping by even as a write this.
That means an obituary is not about what you can undo from what is done. You don’t undo. Its about moving on.
That, my friends, is a big thought.
Because a lot of people want to go back and fix or ‘undo.’
But obituaries can be written at any time. In fact. Many obituaries are written .. well .. when they are written .. and that means they are written with “what is” as the case and point.
I guess what I am suggesting is that you can choose to unburden yourself from the past at any point.
The good, the bad, the indifferent … none really matter.
Write your obituary from today on.
A truth (just as a reminder).
The past cannot be changed, forgotten, edited, or erased. The truth is you can only accept it. Accept it and move on.
that’s it for today. But here is a thought.
Maybe everyone should write your obituary after you read this post.
You may not like what you read.
Maybe there is no passion in the words.
Aw shit … who cares?
You are alive.
You can write another at some point if you choose to.
And write the obituary you want beginning today.