I suspect you know Herbert’s words, if not the source. This essay focuses on kindness. It’s not that beauty is less important than kindness. Rather, I prefer to focus on one of the two factors mentioned in the quote for this short essay.
First, the disclaimer: Our virtual absence of free will dictates our kindness or absence thereof. I think, based on ample evidence, that free will is almost completely absent from humans and other animals.
The caveat to the disclaimer: I doubt you’ll find an ethicist who recommends we act as if we lack free will. I certainly don’t.
Thinking backed by knowledge presents conundrums every day. Fortunately for them, and not for us, most people lack the willingness to pursue introspection and also the requisite knowledge to discover the conundrums. There’s nothing like ignorance to avoid self-reflection about one’s behavior.
The usual response to my suggestion of kindness: “Why?”
My retort: “Why not?”
The conversation continues: “Yeah, but if we only have eight years left, why be kind?”
“We don’t have eight years left. Most readers don’t have two years left.”
Does a terminal diagnosis preclude decency? Respect? Kindness?
Does hospice mean abandoning values? Does it translate to hedonism?
Does the fact that birth is a terminal illness that’s proven fatal in every case mean we need to act as if our actions don’t matter? Does acknowledging death preclude living with integrity?
I’ve detailed the rationale behind my work. I have written and said too many times to count that my work at Homestead 2.0 in Belize is focused on my local community. Here, I live off-grid while working to grow food and reminding people that life is short. Reminders are offered via presentations and workshops. And, again, I’m not attached to the outcome of my actions.
I am asked nearly every day for advice about living. I recommend living fully. I recommend living with intention. I recommend living urgently, with death in mind. I recommend the pursuit of excellence. I recommend the pursuit of love. It’s small wonder I am often derided, mocked, rejected, and isolated by my contemporaries in the scientific community.
In light of the short time remaining in your life, and mine, I recommend all of the above, louder than before. More fully than you can imagine. To the limits of this restrictive culture, and beyond.
For you. For me. For us. For now.
Live large. Be you, and bolder than you’ve ever been. Live like you’re dying. Because you are.
Here’s a hint: Rarely does a person in hospice act like a selfish, money-grubbing arse. Being kind is it’s own reward. A life of service is as good as it gets.