Picture your future skeleton

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

I never forget that in 90 years both you and I will be skeletons and there is nothing we can do about this. Picture yourself under the earth as a skeleton and the utter silence of your mind and end of your ability to perform any action. Unpleasant thought? Well it is sometimes strange to remember it, the un-escapability of it, but such a thought can change your sense of priorities a bit. Nothing is important in a concrete sense; we will all be forgotten (do you even remember your great grand-father and if not then who else do you imagine could remember?) but thinking more deeply you start to care less about being attached to things and more about your influence upon things – not necessarily history but your influence on something.

Perhaps we needn’t think about this, for even without thought there appears to me three great instincts – to survive, to breed and to pass on knowledge – that are encoded into almost every action we take; by applying induction these instincts together will ensure our great influence upon the world. But this might not be good enough for some contemplating whether their actions through life – their time to act – have been satisfactory. Firstly some of you have a force to have a much greater influence than upon just your offspring (and the mass of people eventually produced) – for your method of influence (e.g. adding significantly to knowledge) might move through thousands of families instead of only one and iterate through their offspring shaping a great mass. Secondly and probably more importantly for some it may not feel virtuous to have made, when the situation is viewed objectively, the great mass of humans merely larger without any particular long-lasting influence. If you add some blue jelly to a mass of blue jelly the object as a whole has not really changed while some food colouring will be more notable.

As you age the goals become more clear but the path becomes more narrow, so you try not to jump around and more clearly see what is really important. This is emphasised by having less time to accomplish what you want. By contrast when you are young you actually felt a lack of ability to jump from one thing to another because you have other restraints (must go to school, must get a job, e.t.c.) and only in hindsight one views the past with this enormous flexibility in which you can jump around.

Regardless of your current age, when you do become a skeleton you will not be able to act in any way. Okay, you cannot act and directly exercise your influence (for example right now you can give a flower to a friend) however you still have a chance to continue influencing the world. The solution and great opportunity lies in your ability to think critically (especially while conjuring an image your of skeleton) to adjust your priorities and actions so that this influence can continue to function when your time to act is over.

by Julian Cochran


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