“Do you know that disease and death must needs overtake us, no matter what we are doing? …What do you wish to be doing when it overtakes you? …If you have anything better to be doing when you are so overtaken, get to work on that.” –Epictetus
I’m skating towards oblivion. Sorry to say it but so are you.
Not only that, but we’re all skating on fast ice.
That’s the happy premise of my four hundred words. With every stride the ice surface shrinks and the clock continues to tick away precious seconds, minutes, and days.
Even though we think we’re skating alone, we are always accompanied by two unseen wingers-Death and Destiny.
Death, to the left of us, asks us the daily question: “Are you using the great gift of life?”
Destiny, on our right, asks: “Are you doing what you have come here to do?” These daily reflections guide me as I hurtle toward that inevitable encounter with mortality.
I’m 57 years old. I’ve skated hard through the first two periods of life: youth and adulthood. I’ve earned a degree, married well, built a business, raised a family, own a home. I’ve got some money in the bank, cars in the driveway, and modest debts. A good life.
As I enter the third period– my eldership– I hear Epictetus’ words about using time well. They motivate me to skate towards a life that is as meaningful and fulfilling as I can make it. I want to use the time I have to playing every shift like Sidney Crosby driving to the goal.
But what goal is worth driving towards?
What I’m discovering is my third period is less about outer accomplishments and more about my inner life. That’s where wisdom resides and since I am entering my “wisdom years” it’s probably a good place to skate.
In this period I intend to turn my eyes from the outer world and towards the heart. The Four-Chambered Heart explains cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien, is full, open, clear and strong.
This is where meaning is constructed. Life’s most important decisions — personal matters, family, relationships, and business — are assembled in the heart first and are rationalized later.
Therefore I resolve to:
Use my time pursuing only what I am full-hearted about in my life and work.
Remain open to new ideas, people and experiences
Keep my relationships clear of obstruction by being honest and compassionate with the people I care about.
Face ageing with courage and dignity because it sure ain’t for sissies.
That’s what I’m skating towards, Al. It’s good. I need the exercise.
Patrick O'Neill is a provocateur of the future. He is an author, blogger, speaker, consultant, teacher, mentor and mediator. His company is called Extraordinary Conversations. His forthcoming book is called Visionmaker: Making the Journey from Possibility to Outcome. You can subscribe to his quarterly newsletter here.
Note: I will release individual essays from the collection, What are you skating towards? 2 to 3 times a week. Upcoming contributions are by Shari Graydon, Donna Thomson, Mark Kingwell and Marcel Lauzière. You can access the accumulated essays here.