You are already naked
I had never given much thought to my mortality. Growing up I always believed that although other people may die, I was immune to dying. In my mind other people died, especially the bad ones or the ones who took their health for granted, but not me, God was certainly going to spare me the fate of death. I don’t believe that I was alone in this thinking, with so many of my peers drinking and driving it seemed the audacity to be reckless was in record supply. However as with all things in life, eventually we all learn the naivety of our thinking and somehow we get a little more serious, even about death.
I’m not going to pretend with you, the idea of death and how you simply cease to exist terrifies me. Although I may be a believer, a small part of me does still wonder if the whole heaven thing is a hoax and we just came up with it to help us feel better. And what does not existing even mean? Will all I have done not matter? Will people not remember my name? The concern with legacy is not a new one. From the beginning of time human beings have been trying to either outlive death or create something that will. Perhaps it’s an overactive imagination at 3am but I can’t say these thoughts haven’t bothered me. I look up at my ceiling swaying between rejecting death and thinking of ways to outlive it, but here’s the one over arching thing that comforts me at night: you are already naked.
The most terrifying and beautiful thing about death is that it strips away all the stuff that doesn’t matter. If you’ve ever had to face a life or death situation you’d know just how incredibly sharp you become in discerning what is important and what you can easily let go. Not to say nuance isn’t important and that even. the most mundane task may have purpose but we wouldn’t be placing such great emphasis on whether our pictures were liked or gossiping about Barbara from Accounting marrying some 65 year old man with a yacht. We’d be incredibly focused on our lives, our loved ones and leaving something behind.
The terrifying thing about being young is that we take our youth for granted. We keep convincing ourselves that somehow we have all this time and even though most of us do, we don’t realize that being young also offers us the opportunity not to be trapped by other people’s thinking and that it is the perfect time to do and try everything that scares everyone else. For years I’ve been listening to Steve Jobs’s Stanford address where he talks about death and the gift it has given him. Steve had built, arguably, the most successful company in the world in just 10 years, something that would make anyone feel invincible so the idea of death might not had been on top of his agenda. However after learning that he had pancreatic cancer and somehow being able to beat it, he shared how the near death experience suddenly sharpened his focus on what really was important in life. “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
The beautiful thing about being dead is that we don’t have to worry about what other people think or say anymore because we won't be around to care. If we know it to be true in death, why would it be any less true in life? Too many people’s opinions are living rent free in our minds when they have no business being there in the first place. When making the big and important decisions about your life you have to always consider whether you are being true to yourself. This is your life. This might be the only time in all of eternity where you get to pass through this world, do you want to waste it on everyone else opinions but your own?
I know death is a terrifying reality but it’s also freeing. One of your greatest fears will be actualized with or without your consent so now you get to stop resisting it and focus on what you already have, your present moment. You get to look at your gifts, your opportunity, the brilliance of your mind. You get to focus on your voice, your message and what you want to get out of your life. If it’s been pressing on your heart to change your job, get out of a relationship, start a business, volunteer at a shelter, then go ahead and do it. Throw yourself in and have enough faith in yourself that you will overcome, because you will. And if you die, well at least we already knew that that was precisely what was going to happen anyway.
As Steve stresses in his speech “death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away.” Take all the time you need to focus on what you want to say to the world and what your true authentic self means to you. Don’t dive into things that have been projected onto you by other people’s insecurities or things that they wished they had done. This is your life.
I can’t begin to stress how much Steve Jobs’s speech has changed my life and knowing that even in his short life he has achieved what most people could only achieve in a thousand life times. The fundamental difference between Steve and so many people is that he took the time to know himself and focusing only on what was authentic to him and we have the power to do the same. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” So focus on your voice. Don't worry about what other people will think because quite frankly my friend, you are already naked.