Death is a scary thing. Generally we try to avoid even thinking about our own death, or the death of our loved ones. It’s just too painful. But death can actually be a powerful tool to help us live the kind of life we really want.
In one of my favorite scenes from the movie Fight Club, Tyler Durden walks into a convenience store, grabs the clerk (named Raymond), drags him into the parking lot, and holds a gun to his head. Then Tyler asks Raymond what he wanted to be when he was growing up.
Turns out, Raymond wanted to be a veterinarian. But he ended up quitting and dropping out of college, because it was too much school. Tyler takes Raymond’s driver’s license, and tells him that he will check up on him in 6 weeks. If Raymond hasn’t started the necessary steps to go back to school to become a veterinarian, he will be dead.
Edward Norton’s character is horrified and doesn’t understand what the hell Tyler is doing. Come on, this isn’t funny! That wasn’t funny. What the fuck was the point of that?!
Tyler explains that something has changed in Raymond. It’s the power of death to promote true life. Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.
Norton finally begins to understand. You had to give it to him. He had a plan. And it started to make sense in a Tyler sort of way. No fear, no distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.
There is something about facing the reality of death that brings clarity about what is truly important. Death narrows the scope. Death brings the fuzzy picture of one’s life back into focus.
There’s a large graveyard near my apartment, and sometimes I like to take a walk by it, just to soak in the history and finality of it. It might seem morbid, but I recommend you do something similar. Get comfortable with the fact that someday, you are going to die.
Then get up and start living today.
Discussion: What do you think about the power of death to promote true life? How has the reality of death focused and brought clarity to your life?