Your Magic Number

Only when you accept that one day you’ll die can you let go, and make the best out of life. And that’s the big secret. That’s the miracle.

~ Gabriel Bá


Every mentally well person older than 12 years of age — insert your own joke here — knows that everybody dies. Yet essentially everybody acts as if the concept of death applies only to non-human animals and also to other people. Rather than living with death in mind, thus with urgency, we occasionally take an online longevity quiz to comfort ourselves and then keep living as if we’ll make it comfortably to the century mark.

A similar mentality afflicts societal endeavors. Among the best known in this space is the climate-change projections indicating all is well until 2100. After that, look out!

Once you admit and accept your own death, life takes on new meaning. Various activities become less worthy of one’s time. Relationships rise in importance as the acquisition of fiat currency declines in priority.

And that’s all childish and ethereal relative to the urgency of life in hospice. Admitting one’s death in a century, or even in a decade, is one thing. Admitting one’s death in three days is quite another.

What’s your magic number? At what point will you live differently in light of your terminal diagnosis? Do you want to receive the “bad news” six months in advance? Six weeks? Six days? Six hours? Six minutes? Or perhaps not at all?

At some point, does it become irrelevant to you? Is it better for the medical doctor to lie to you? If so, at what point is it acceptable for the doctor to lie? Six months in advance? Six weeks? Six days? Six hours? Six minutes? Or perhaps it’s always better for the medical doctor to lie play god.

What’s your magic number?

I don’t know your expiration date. Neither do you. But if I had to guess, I’d guess my guess is better than yours. It’s sooner, too. Almost everybody reading these words has a remaining lifespan of weeks or months, not years. Decades? Fuhgettaboutit!

I’m not pleased with this prognosis. Results of my latest online longevity quiz indicate I have decades to go. So does the latest assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The online quiz is the more reliable source of the two. It’s still wrong because it fails to account for abrupt climate change, hence lack of habitat for humans on Earth.