Fearing The Deadline

1. What If I Die First?

What if I die before I get a chance to put all of this work together into something meaningful?

That thought creeps in every once in a while.

My work has been a long-term investment.

I needed the ability to write fiction, to write comedy. I needed philosophy and worldview. I had to learn to draw and to reignite my creativity so that my work was not too derivative. I had to learn to market my work and bring new people into an understanding of what I’m working on.

It’s been a big job.

That list isn’t even half of the things that stopped me from being able to publish my final work and go home.

And when I was in my twenties, when I started all this, I had a sense of living forever and that I had plenty of time to get everything done within my lifetime.

There are cathedrals that took multiple generations to build; I had no plans at 20 to be someone who created work and handed it down to someone else on my deathbed.

I expected to do my work swiftly, change the world mightily, and then retire in a utopia we’d managed to craft in like half-a-decade or so.

Now my hair is grayer, and I’m on the, “you’re over thirty, so your recovery from surgery will be complicated, sir,” list.

I realize how slowly real change happens.

Real change that is going to stick.

Plenty of people are clamoring for radical change, and I agree that there’s not much that doesn’t need improving, but we have to prioritize, because nothing is going to change on its own, and I’m with Einstein on this one, the problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of mind which created the problems in the first place.

We have to bring ourselves to a much more developed and matured skillset if we are going to rise to the occasion.

And that takes time.

There’s no shortcut that I am aware of.

And I could die on my way to being useful. I might not make it all the way to getting the smarts out of my brain and into a format where a person could take what I thought up and do something useful with it.

2. An In-Obsession With Death

I don’t believe that death is what gives our life meaning; I think if we lived to be a thousand years old, we’d still be governed by the present moment and our inability to do two things at once.

Meaning is derived from priority: you can only effectively do one thing at a time, or to quote Ron Swanson, “Don’t half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”

Or that Drucker quote on, “Do first things first, do second things not at all.”

Meaning arises when we focus into a topic and apply ourselves.

There are two definitions of genius that I like, genius is an accident meeting a prepared mind, and genius is just applied attention over time to the same subject.

Novelist and YouTuber John Green was distraught over how much trouble there was in the world, and someone gave him the advice that, since the news crews only cover the explosive parts of a global issue, you won’t get to see if any progress or improvement is made, unless you pick an issue, and stick with it. So he and his brother stuck with maternal mortality in Sierra Leone, and focused all of their efforts there.

John has said, it’s not just that they did in fact build momentum with the money they’ve raised for building new hospitals there, it’s that, as the person who advised him had explained, the secondary benefit of sticking with one problem is that over time, you yourself become an expert on that problem, and you know better where to direct your own efforts to be useful.

With the number of people who need us to do better, to do a better job, to make ourselves expert enough to help, I cannot imagine that a mature person would run out of things to do in a thousand year lifespan.

So I don’t see our death as the driving factor in whether we have meaning in our lives, I am not concerned that because this all is temporary, I must hustle faster to get my work out the door, right just now, because I could die at any moment, or the world could come to an end some time today.

I’m moved to act, because there are problems that break my heart, and I want to be useful.

But I know now, that rushing ahead because I might die, is not helpful. That just creates a state of mania.

Mania, as I’ve experienced it, I describe as having a million dollars to spend, so you feel like finally you can go get yourself the things that matter to you. BUT you have to pay for things in quarters, and no one has that kind of time.

Want a house? That’s a lot of quarters for you to sit there and count out. So you give up on that one, and go after something easier.

Car? Too many quarters.

Maybe, maybe you have the attention span to count out a few hundred quarters and get something like a big screen tv.

That’s what mania was like the few times I’ve slipped into it because of medication and trauma.

I felt like I could take on the world, but really, it just made me panic, and sloppily try to use the energy I had toward something useful before I came back down to earth.

Obsessing about death, and treating death as a literal deadline that is chasing me and will one day truncate my work, and I know not when, to hold my focus there, makes me frantic.

Because if I were struck down today, it’d be a waste.

3. An Experimental Life; Slow.

My work is not produced linearly. I needed to bring all these different resources together, in order to invent the new solutions I propose.

Experimental work can be like that. There is no roadmap to discovering a breakthrough sooner; it comes when it comes.

So, I worry about not dying, but dying before I’ve had a chance to put all these damn things into place. It would just be a shame.

And because it is likely I will be concerned about something, that early-death is one of the ways my brain likes to freak out and try to get me motivated to do more or work faster.

But I refuse to pay with quarters and turn in slapdash work.

Brick at a time I’ll build my house. 

I hope I live another hundred and forty years; I hope I’m around for a long time; I could fill up that time, no question.

I hope whenever I die, those that mourn me will be able to say:

“Here lies Noah Wizard. Wow man, he did a lot.”

And then they fly away on their jetpacks because I lived long enough for those to be a thing. Heck yeah.

The above post was an entry for Paul Scrivens’ 30 Day Prompt Challenge.

Prompt: This is the final day…
It’s your last day on Earth. You’re able to write your own obituary.
It can be as long as you want it to be.
What does it say?