Remember that you are but a man…

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four of five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

~Brandon Lee, 1965-1993

Mastery over self includes the wading into the depths of the existential, the mysterious, the spiritual. It also includes coming to grips with things that are inevitable and beyond your control. And sometimes, like contemplating the subject of your death, they cover all of the aforementioned depths at once.

Death is certain; inevitable for every living thing on this planet. It is by and large out of our control. It is mysterious, spiritual and by it’s very nature existential. We all must face the understanding of our own inescapable passing, or avoid it and try to put it out of our minds until the very end.

Self Mastery dictates we face it, and face it long before it happens.

I’m obviously not the first person in the long line of humanity to have these thoughts. So, while these might be my thoughts, I understand that the majority of them are not “original” by any stretch of the imagination.

 

I planted some seeds for this post on mortality in “Eulogy” and in my more recent post regarding transformation.

So, let’s begin.

Memento Mori

 


First, Memento Mori has gained a lot of traction over the last few years. It is being brought back into the consciousness of the culture and I think that is a good thing. The saying might be new to you, but I’ve seen it popping up in so many places.

My first introduction to the phrase itself was from an article over at The Art of Manliness back in 2012. Here is a small excerpt from that article, giving the brief background of the phrase itself:

Memento mori is Latin for “Remember death.” The phrase is believed to originate from an ancient Roman tradition in which a servant would be tasked with standing behind a victorious general as he paraded though town. As the general basked in the glory of the cheering crowds, the servant would whisper in the general’s ear: “Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!” = “Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember that you will die!”

Memento mori. Remember that you will die.

Memento Mori, Remember that you will die.

Indeed. It is in the remembering that I think the challenge lies. Which is why we need reminders. The very reason I got that tattoo pictured above was to have a constant reminder that I am choosing to understand, contemplate and face my inevitable death now instead of coming to terms with it later in life. As we understand something, that understanding changes, develops and hopefully ripens and gets better with age. This is my goal, my aim with death. That by the time it comes, my understanding has gotten better with the days, years and decades that will hopefully pass before I die.

If you think about it, your life is like a movie. What I mean by that is you only see it from your lense, your particular camera angle. No matter how emphathetic you believe you are. You literally cannot see the scenes in your life play out through someone else’s eyes. You can only witness everything that happens from your seat in the theater, like a fully interactive movie experience built for one.

I am fully aware and recognize that I will die one day; my movie will end. It is the way of this world and I accept that. At the same time, I find myself still having those, “Oh shit! I’m going to fucking die!” moments.

Some questions come to mind when I think of the possible endings of my movie.

  • What will I see when death comes?
  • Will I be able to grasp/comprehend that I am dead?
  • What happens to my consciousness?
  • Will “I” live on?
  • Will my consciousness live on for a few moments after death and then fade?
  • Will “I” just cease to be completely?
  • What if this life is all there is, and then nothing?
  • What if there’s more to come? What will I see on the other side?
  • Why do we not have 100% proof either way?

I’ve played a mental exercise regarding my death multiple times. The scene is usually me on my death bed, breathing my last. In my mind I am trying to picture what happens next, but I’m only left with a black curtain. As I am mortal, I haven’t the luxury of peering through the Void.

My consciousness fades to black.

My physical body is now as inanimate and non-sentient as a coffin nail.

There is no “me” anymore. I do not and cannot even comprehend it, I’m just… gone.

All my thoughts, desires, dreams, my essence, my “soul”… gone.

Just…nothing.

Everything that is “me” has crossed the event horizon, spaghettifying into the black hole of mortality and death in the blink of an eye… forever.

“I” remain only in the memory of those that remain.

Daily Stoic has a great, short piece on this exact thing. Literally short enough to include in it’s entirety:

It’s scary to think that we will someday die. What of our family, we think? What of our possessions, our potential, and our plans? Death in this way, is a great loss. The poet Lucretius described it in haunting language: “Never again will your dear children race for the prize of your first kisses and touch your heart with pleasure too profound for words.”

What we forget, of course, is pointed out in the next line. “You will not care, because you will not exist.” Jack London, speaking like a Stoic, has an equally clever and profound line. With death, he says, man “does not lose anything, for with the loss of himself, he loses the knowledge of loss.”

Nothing after death is the most haunting and most liberating thought to me, leaning more on the haunting side than liberating. What’s funny to me is, for the most part, the same reasons it is liberating are the same reasons it is haunting.

All I have ever known, is my own personal movie, and contemplating that sort of emptiness is hard to grab a hold of. I don’t want that movie to end. I want more. You don’t feel, think, nothing. You are just gone. You will not exist. We get this small little vapor of life as sentient beings able to grasp, think and wrestle with complex thoughts… and then it’s all gone… with no meaning.

“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Dying in many respects, is a leap of faith.

I’ve spent the majority of my early teens through adult life as a Christian. I’ll be thirty-eight in just under a month. The whole of the Christian faith hinges on a Resurrection: Life after death of the Savior. And if there wasn’t a Resurrection and if there is no resurrection for the believers, like the Apostle Paul said, we are the sorriest and most pitiable of creatures**. I still believe that the Christian faith holds merit, but if compared to the whole majority of my Christian friends and family – or even myself five years ago – I’m practically an atheist. Like the boy in “The Polar Express”, I want to believe. But, for both our sakes I won’t unpack that box here.

**I’m going off memory here. You get the gist. Save your time, I don’t need a deep theological exegesis on the nuances of the scripture/s I paraphrased.

Faith – or lack thereof – not withstanding, I find it hard to accept that death would be the end.

Maybe its cognitive bias or some other form of bias on my part. But, we are sentient beings, conscious and self-aware. God-like in our potential for thinking, creating, destroying and reproducing. Demon-like in our potential to scorch the earth in tragedy, bloodshed, despair and destruction.

We humans have so many spiritual like qualities that makes us “us” in our spirit, soul, and/or consciousness, it is hard to accept that it would just end. With so many examples of life in a cyclical nature and so many other examples of transformation where there is a kind of death and a newer life comes from it, it is hard to accept that we would not transform yet again in some way.

Action

Regardless of whether life will end at death or continue on in some other way, we are still left with a decision to make.

We can’t sit on our ass and waste the time away.

We must decide what to do with the time we have here, right now. It is seen so much on social media, inspirational quotes and memes, motivational videos and the like that it has become white noise, despite the truth it holds: You only have this one life.

We have been given a small sliver of time on this amazing planet.

The only solution is to make the best of it, yes?

The only solution is to embrace this life, yes?

 

Search yourself, we, all of us, make space for what is truly a priority in our lives. We constantly complain about not enough time or money for the higher things in life yet all one needs to do in order to know what our real priorities are, is to take a look at what people will make time for or spend their money on.

Human nature is fairly simple sometimes.

I was going to try and wax eloquently in this action section regarding living your passions, etc. However, there is a lot of that out there and without the conviction of mortality, I think much of it is just white noise.

So I will just end this post with these last four short sentences.

 

You will die.

It is coming.

It could be today.

Act accordingly.

 

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A Horror Story (humor)

The following is based on real events. Please get the word out and let people fully understand the dangers of taking preworkout.**

It was a slow morning, the normal routines trudging on. Brush teeth, shower, dress, fix hair, breakfast, morning commute, then on to the opening routines of my office. It is a rest day for me, but I still take preworkout for the caffeine and for the Creatine HCL and other awesome things that help my body along. At work I took out my pre, conveniently packed in a little ziplock bag, effectively making me look like a coke-head about to get a hit and slunk off to the break room to retrieve some ice-cold water and create the magic elixir that would bring life and joy to me. Time was running short and I could feel the effects of the spell wearing off. I had to act quickly.

My shaker bottle had about five ounces of water so I took off the lid and added the pre, slowly swirling the bottle around as I turned towards the water cooler. This is where my world descended into nightmare.

An invisible phantom knocked the shaker bottle from my grasp and large drops of cherry red concentrated pre splashed onto the table. Time slowed and horror came upon my face. I was unable to reach the bottle as it continued its fall, defying physics and travelling faster than gravity dictates, the bottle rocketed towards the floor. A scream of utter terror came from somewhere, the shrill shriek of a banshee. I realized the voice was my own as the bottle and its contents impacted with enough force to raze my office building to the ground.

I didn’t know five ounces could do so much damage. If someone would’ve pranked me with an M-80 in the bottom of my drink, there would’ve been less carnage. Simultaneously splattering on my shoes, up my pant legs, across the floor; the cherry elixir spread far and wide. It hit chairs, tables, the dishwasher, the ceiling.

The sweet smell of Black Cherry began to fill my nostrils as the spell began to reverse itself.

I instantly noticed all my gains disappearing. Half of my body began to bloat and atrophy, the other half began to shrink. I was literally becoming skinny-fat. My back began to twist and contort. I felt a sharp pain in my head, reaching up I could literally feel two freakish dents appearing, my head was literally caving in. The pain was extraordinary. Half of my beard fell out. Before I collapsed to the floor. I noticed my reflection in my iPhone. I looked like the love child of a threesome between Quasimodo, the Phantom of the Opera and Medusa.

When I hit the floor, I struggled to move towards the one area where the majority of the elixir had pooled. I feebly licked the floor; dirt, hair, a three-week old Cheeto soaked in pre… I was beyond help.

Darkness took me.

I awoke later that evening in a hospital room. My eyes strained to focus but I saw an IV drip hooked into my arm. It was pre…glorious pre. It was diluted for the continuous stream being fed intravenously, but it was wonderful. A few short days later, my body had fully returned to its prior state and I could go about in public again.

Be careful, kids, preworkout is good…but missing a dose can cost you.

Acta Non Verba

“A good man doesn’t go around begging people to believe in his goodness. His actions and behavior speak for him.” ~C.H.

As the Scripture goes, “by their fruit you shall know them”. Actions and behavior, these things prove what you are about; these are the fruits of what you really believe or value. You can emote, prattle on and make convincing cases about all the things you believe or support and the positions you take. But without corresponding action, it doesn’t really matter.

Men. Fucking. Do.

Acta Non Verba. Actions not words. Like it or not, this is the plumb-line. You’ve heard it a million different ways: Talk is Cheap. Put up or Shut up. Put your money where your mouth is. Walk the walk. Prove it.

If you pause and listen to all the talk around you from your friends, your family, your coworkers, etc., and compare what they say versus what they do, you can very quickly make assessments as to who is full of shit. Their behaviors and actions prove what they are really about. This is very disruptive, I know, because talk is always the easier and more comfortable path. It’s disruptive because it is the wind that will cause our house of cards to tumble and be scattered. Politics, Religion, Work, Relationships, Passions, Hobbies, Businesses, etc… all of these and more are weighed by what you do over what you say. Well, except maybe politics and religion, people seem to eat up massive amounts of bullshit in this area before calling leaders out on what they actually do… but I digress.

Acta Non Verba not only sifts the wheat from the chaff, but it can actually help us find the harmony in our own beliefs as well. Notice, I said harmony and not balance. Balance is like a see-saw with no motion. Harmony is more like two people working in cooperation with each other on that see-saw. The tides ebb and flow, bands and orchestras work together, peoples and tribes find a way to create civilization. It is all more harmony than balance. Applying Acta Non Verba helps find the harmony by prioritizing and executing; sifting through and finding the most important things and then acting on them first.

I’ve been putting Acta Non Verba into action in my own life over the last few years; taking inventory of what I do versus say and focusing on the doing more than saying. And if I don’t do then I shut the fuck up. It is a great reminder to continually strive to become a better man. To show, through my consistent actions and behaviors, the kind of man I am and am becoming. Talk is cheap. Actions have value.

No more, “I’m gonna do…”. No more, “I’m planning on doing…”. No more, “I should do…”

No more. NO MORE.

“Talk – Action = ZERO”

There is much more that could be unpacked here, but I am trying to keep my posts shorter and to the point.

ACTA. NON. VERBA.

Pursue Mastery.

 

Ingredients of Transformation

Some of this may seem obvious. Hell, all of it might. However, this is part of pursuing mastery. Mastery isn’t just about learning more and more things and having a shitty understanding or ability to execute on them just because you have reached a certain level. No, Mastery is about refining. Perfecting the understanding, the execution of the basics and applying that level of mastery to each area.

There are three key ingredients in order for transformation to take place: time, struggle and change. Unlike a progression of steps, these things work in harmony with each other. It might seem obvious, but if time is cut short, the transformation isn’t what it should be. If there is no struggle, the transformation will not keep. If there is no change, the transformation did not happen. For lack of a better word, there is work involved in the transformation and if these three elements of work are not present, the transformation is stunted at best and completely non-existant at worst.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these ingredients.

Time 

Time is our most precious commodity.

I’ve said it many, many times in one form or another: our shared destination is six feet underground – or a pile of ash, the choice is yours, possibly. Regardless of the final destination of our bodies, we are going to die. Full stop.

Time is precious. Memento Mori. Some of us realize the value of this early on, some only realize it when it is close to expiring. We want our lives to be better, our families whole, our bodies to look good, our marriages repaired. The flaw we usually share is that we want the results RIGHT-THE-FUCK-NOW!! We don’t want to be inconvenienced with a time factor holding us back from what we want.

But it doesn’t work that way. (reread this as many times as you need to)

Time is crucial to the process of transformation, it is a requirement that must be met. There is a price to be paid. The “cost” depends on the kind of transformation taking place. In transforming a business, a relationship, in recreating a brand, none of it happens overnight. We don’t have the same rules as fairy tales. I cannot waive a magic wand or say some incantation and have what I desire.

Like it or not, time is the price. But this payment is an investment, not a squandering of resources.

You might as well embrace this truth.

Time is part of the struggle.

Struggle

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~Frederick Douglass

Take a look at the examples of transformation in the natural world: plant, animal, mineral or human. There is the factor of time, time overlaps the entire process, and there is a struggle.

Struggle is 100% necessary to the process.

Prices must be paid. Those things that come to us easily with little to no price to pay usually aren’t as highly valued as something you have poored blood, sweat, tears and time into. You can deny it all you want, but it doesn’t change this universal rule that if it hasn’t been worked for, fought for, bled for… their is little value.

Further, the struggle must be complete. It cannot be stopped prematurely or aided where struggle is no longer a factor. Like a bird breaking out of it’s shell or a baby giraffe learning to walk, that struggle is helping forge the survival instinct. If that animal is assisted, that instinct is stunted; not fully developed.

Go to Instagram and type in the hashtag #transformation, pay special attention to the pictures that show progressions over time. I’m talking about the pictures that document one, two, or five years of progress. They have fought, they have struggled, they have paid the price over time. “Sticking with it” is part of that struggle. This is where time can take its toll. Persistance can and will beat resistance. Whether it is in relationships, business, physical fitness, you name it. Continually striving to improve, push forward and staying with it, even when you are hitting the plateaus where nothing seems to work. That is part of the struggle.

Change

You are human, you are not an immovable statue of granite. For better or worse, both time and struggle will change you. The kind of change and transformation that takes place is entirely up to you.

In the context of what I’ve been writing, we are speaking of intentional transformation. As you intentionally put in the time, the effort, the struggle, the transformation will begin to take hold. Maybe you are trying to change certain mindsets you have, maybe you are trying to improve your health, or change the branding of your business. All of these things take time and effort.

If the transformation isn’t happening, check the factors of time and struggle. Has enough time passed? Are you doing the work? Is it the right kind of work for the transformation you seek?

Apply patience for the time that is needed and endurance for the work and struggle.

Pursue Mastery.

 

** Hey there, friend! If you are seeing value in this blog, one of the biggest compliments I can receive is you liking and sharing this. Don’t forget to subscribe to get more content as it comes available. Thanks for stopping by!**