Don’t sacrifice today for tomorrow
The last few weeks have been hard for my sister, as her best friend of 20 years has passed away. I had worked with her in my last job, and I, too, mourned the loss. The friend, a mother of two children, was diagnosed with cancer. My sister visited the friend in the hospital every day, and she said,
“I want to get out of the hospital and end my life somewhere quiet.” However, her wish did not come true, and just like many other cancer patients, she ended her short life wearing all kinds of tubes. My sister said to me, “Don’t try too hard. Don’t care too much about what others may think. And don’t get sick.” I wanted to tell her the exact same thing. But how can we live in this world without trying too hard?
As a teenager, I was deeply fearful of death, largely influenced by religion. What if I do something wrong? What if I get punished eternally? The fear was diluted as I became an atheist. But that didn’t make life any easier. We all live only once, and I wanted to live my life without any regrets.
That’s why we all try so hard, to die without regrets.
After talking to my sister on the phone, I revisited an article from The Guardian from February. Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, wrote “The Top Five Regrets of Dying” based on her conversations with patients at their death bed. According to Ware, most male patients said, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” They missed watching their children growing up and the companionship of their partners. Both male and female patients said, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Also, they wished they’d had the courage to express their feelings, had stayed in touch with friends and had let themselves be happier, not deterred by the fear of change.
Spinoza also often discussed dying. People remember him for saying, “Even if the end of the world were to come tomorrow, I will plant an apple tree.” It is questionable whether he actually said it, but at any rate, it inspired me a scene.
Spinoza was Jewish, and he was excommunicated because of his philosophical beliefs. He made a living by grinding lenses, but he faithfully lived in the present, day by day. By planting a tree today, he felt accomplished for the day and didn’t think about whether there would be any fruit tomorrow. When he planted a tree, his today was completed, even if the sun would explode the next day.
So, don’t sacrifice today for tomorrow. If you know the way you want to go but decide not to take the path, you are being too responsible for your own good. Let’s live like a fool for once — one who only care about today.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Na-ree