Contrary to the quote from American comedian Bill Hicks, I’m not purposely bitter, cold, or cruel. However, the evidence underlying abrupt climate change leading to near-term human extinction certainly is bitter and cruel, particularly to those who have not lived fully. It’s literally cold in some unusual places even as the Arctic ice melts and the planet burns.
Imagine receiving a terminal diagnosis at a young age. You’re simultaneously liberated and devastated. You’re suddenly able to live as you like, freed from the shackles of societal expectations. And you have no future. Your dreams are shattered. Why bother pursuing excellence and love if you have only weeks or months to live?
This is the predicament we face. It is particularly poignant for those who have been told, and falsely continue to believe, that their dreams will be fulfilled if they work hard and adhere to societal expectations.
Millennials come immediately to mind: They almost universally know they’ve been gaslighted at the level of the entire society, yet there is no chance for the payoff they’ve been promised. “Life sucks and then you die” has never had more meaning than for college students wracked with nightmarish debt and pockets full of dreams.
Finding one’s meaning in an ambivalent universe is one thing. After all, one’s authentic purpose must come from within and it might take years to discover. Finding one’s meaning on an indifferent planet rapidly running out of habitat for humans is the ultimate raw deal. It’s as if you’ve worked tirelessly to become the greatest sound engineer in the world immediately before every sentient organism, including you, loses its hearing.
I interact with many millennials at my home in Belize, where our mission is to facilitate the personal growth of all who visit or live here. We share work and meals. We talk
long into the night until my early bedtime, shortly after an early supper. They know, even before meeting me, that my generation crapped on theirs and then lied about it. They know the lies continue, too. My evidence-based confirmation comes as no surprise to these extraordinary people who’ve already chosen a path well beyond that of their ordinary contemporaries.
The response to new information varies, of course. Most visitors stay as long as they’d originally planned. They leave on schedule, informed and appreciative. The occasional guest plans an immediate departure, choosing to spend the short time remaining with ailing family members. A few guests have arrived alone and departed with a partner. My messages of love and urgency provide inspiration for the urgent love of these latter young-at-heart individuals.
My advice — not that you asked — is to do what seems right for the particular situation without attachment to the outcome. I recommend forsaking hope and fear and instead pursuing action. I recommend living as if death draws near while still flossing and brushing. I recommend adventurous radicalism without intentional harm to oneself or others.
The short version of my advice is contained within three whispered words: live here now. I realize the inherent difficulty of living fully in the current moment. And I know none of us were ever promised another day. Here and now are all we have and all we’ve ever had. And if I believed in miracles, I’d call each of us one, considering the odds against any one of us being here at all.
None of my advice will prove easy to implement. Nor should it. Were it easy, anybody could do it. If you’re reading these words, you’re not just anybody. As a result, my advice is what you’ve come to expect from me:
I recommend, still, living fully. I recommend, still, living with intention. I recommend, still, living urgently, with death in mind. I recommend, still, the pursuit of excellence. I recommend, still, the pursuit of love. I make these recommendations fully cognizant that any moment may be your last, and that any moment likely is not your last. Nonetheless, you don’t have long.
In light of the short time remaining in your life, and my own, I recommend, still, all of the above, louder than before. More fully than you can imagine. To the limits of this restrictive culture, and well 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.