How To Not Waste Your Life

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think. — Marcus Aurelius

That’s deep Marcus. 

So, I could die at any moment, what should I do then? How should I act given what could happen at any moment? 

How do I know I’m not wasting my life? 

Marcus is right when he speaks about thinking about death to figure out how we should live. In fact, you are doing it right now, you’re doing it all the time, at least unconsciously, and you’re acting on it. You see, death is our primordial fear and according to Ernest Becker, it defines entirely the ways in which we live our lives. 

“We are gods with anuses.”
Ernest Becker

Take an amoeba and put it on the microscope. Now, pour a drop of a chloride solution on the amoeba’s environment and watch how it shrinks and flees away from it. Just like that, we fear death. Instinctually, we are constantly trying to avoid it. Not only physically, but subjectively as well.

We, the humans, inherited a consciousness that lets us ponder about ourselves, and even ponder about ourselves after we’re dead. We are subjective beings. We are creators. We are gods, with anuses. 

Why the hell do we need to be reminded of our anuses? Because we die. It’s astonishing for a human being to be conscious of being alive, and able to create and imagine in a god-like way, and yet, still die. 

Pulitzer award winner The Denial Of Death by Ernest Becker: “ … it reflects the dualism of man’s condition — his self and his body. The anus and its incomprehensible repulsive product represents not only physical determinism and boundness, but the fate as well of all that is physical: decay and death.” Later he states, “To say someone is ‘anal’ means someone is trying extra-hard to protect himself against the accidents of life and danger of death, trying to use the symbols of culture as a sure means of triumph over natural mystery, trying to pass himself off as anything but an animal.”

Trying to pass ourselves as anything but animals?

Immortality projects

Given our fear of death and our constant race from it, we develop a response, immortality projects. An immortality project is the human attempt to create something (a persona, a masterpiece, an enterprise) or join with something (a cause, a philosophy, a party, a religion) in order to defeat death through it. To achieve immortality, in a way.

Our subjectivity allows us to imagine ourselves beyond death. 

This is really interesting and all, but could you tell me how to not to waste my life?! 

OK, onward. 

Ask yourself this question. ‘What is my immortality project?’

Let’s say that your immortality project is religion. If it is, then you just need to follow the rules you’re given and you’ll be rewarded with immortal life. This is the easiest immortality project you can subscribe yourself to, but what happens when you don’t believe in it? Be it Islam or Christianity?

There are other, you could say, “stock” immortality projects that are given to you by society. In my hometown, in northern Mexico, it’s all about family. Grow up, get a good job, marry a ‘good’ girl/boy and you’re done. Personally, I don’t subscribe entirely to it, I believe we are way, way more complex. Not that I don’t want a family someday. But there’s so much more to life!

Another immortality project is consumption and fame. How much power can you achieve here on earth? This immortality project measures your level of success with how much you are able to buy. Many, many people subscribe to this one. It’s easy, work hard, work hard and you’ll be remembered. 

But you’ll not take anything with you when you die. You’ll find yourself wondering if your buying power was really that important. 

Not to say that money isn’t good and that you shouldn’t try to earn it. But it is a good thing, just when it is a tool, not the end in itself. Money, fame, and power are shitty immortality projects. 

So what is it then?! 

Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so does a well-employed life brings a blessed death. Leonardo Da Vinci

Get yourself busy with what is meaningful to you, even if only for an hour a day. Until the majority of your day is filled with meaningful activity

When you think about your death, you think about what you left behind, not what you’re taking with you, that’s impossible. You are unique. There are things within you that only you can do. There are things that only you find important in your own unique way. I know this sounds cheesy as fuck, but it’s the truth. There are things that light your heart and that you’d wish to see happening in the world. Think about those things, important things. 

Why don’t you make them your immortality project? 

It’s fucking hard, obviously. You still need to earn money, and people seldom pay for a mediocre passion. This means that you’ll have to commit to doing it, and doing it, and doing it until you’re able to transform those things into your career. 

But that’s the type of work, even if unpaid, that will give you the feeling of fruitfulness. The feeling that you’re not wasting your life. Even if you do it just for a day, and die, you’ll not have wasted your life. 

Still, don’t forget, you are going to die. So get on it

We measure ourselves by many standards,” wrote William James. “Our strength and our intelligence, our wealth and even our good luck, are things which warm our heart and make us feel ourselves a match for life. But deeper than all such things, and able to suffice unto itself without them, is the sense of the amount of effort which we can put forth. . . He who can make none is but a shadow; he who can make much is a hero.” William James, The Principles of Psychology

Thanks for reading, 

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  1. Good post man.

    I’d add that whatever your day job is, striving to be the best at it comes with a lot of positive consequences, not only in the satisfaction of doing your best, of earning your keep, of getting the nod from the boss, etc., but also the opportunities hard work opens up. Don’t waste half of your waking life just because it’s not your passion. Make it your passion, then work on your other passions when you’re done.

    1. Hello Nicholas, this is absolutely true mate. It’s hard to put everything I want to say into a one-morning post. Quality work, as you say, is rewarding in itself. It lets you achieve a flow state that will give you the satisfaction of knowing you are pursuing quality.

      Thanks for contributing to this! Cheers.

      1. I know the struggle. Haha. The problems and joys and ways of good living are all intertwined. Makes it difficult to pinpoint individual topics when there’s so much spillover. Great stuff though man. Keep it it.

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