What would you do if you were given only six months left to live? What if you were only given one or two weeks left to live? Would you take that trip to Paris? Would you reconcile with estranged loved ones? Would it give you the courage to be honest, truly honest with yourself and others? What would you do?
Every year with each new birthday I am amazed at how old I have grown to be. I remember when I turned thirteen feeling a wizened novelty at my advanced age. I had become a teenager, no longer a child. I am an unabashed dream chaser and always feel an urgency to complete my dreams. I am constantly reevaulating my dreams and where and who I wish to be. Would I live differently if I were given only six more months to live? Or only two weeks? The day we are born we are dying, approaching death. Our life, unlike time, is finite, a segment. We occupy an infinitesimally small volume of space-time. But it is our space to explore.
I used to dream of making a real difference in the world, contributing to preserving the environment or to advancing science. When you are young and not yet wearied from obstacles, your eyes are wider and your potential and potential influence feels more expansive. I have been fighting my entire life for the survival of my dreams, to become a physicist, to not concede to my impediments. But now I question how to sculpt my days. I think the answer to this question about how to exploit a limited remainder of one’s life requires self knowledge. How well do you really know yourself?
In a recent piano lesson my teacher played for me Lyric Song by Heinrich Hofmann. I realized in that moment that I wish to be able to play that piece before I die. It was, as the title suggests, lyrical and evocative. It reminds me of a stroll through Parisian streets, rife with culture and the ghosts of deceased composers and great musicians and artists. A musical performance is as ephemeral as a walk through Paris or life itself, yet it possesses as much promise and value. Everything is ephemeral, as I am learning, even humanity and our words. The key is to appreciate the sunset before it ceases. I also knew today that with what remains of my insignificant life, I wish to compose and create evocative images with words. Maybe I have finally grown up to realize my deepest most secret self. Maybe I finally have learned to know myself. Or maybe not.
The ancient Greeks are credited as saying “know thyself.” How well do you know yourself? What will you do with your remaining days? What is important and profound to you?