On Our Illusion Of Time And The Shortness of Life

I recently watched an Oprah Show about an exceptional boy who was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

Despite losing 3 siblings to the disease, discovering that he didn’t have much long to live himself, Mattie J.T. Stepanek had such a beautiful outlook on life.

Notwithstanding his age, his deteriorating state of health, having to move about in a wheelchair and being dependent on oxygen pipes, Mattie lived an exemplary life.

He was a thinker, a philosopher, a peace advocate who inspired so many people in his lifetime and still inspires them in death.

As he lay on his death-bed, he kept asking his mum, have I done enough?

He died at the age of 13, after writing 6 volumes of poems that he called his heartsongs; His message of peace, hope and love to the world.

“I’ve had so many close calls to dying and I’ve come through all of them, I’ve figured, I have a purpose and I’m gonna have to carry out that purpose” – Mattie Stepanek

His story didn’t just brought tears to my eyes, it made me think really hard about life and the way all of us who’re lucky to be well and normal go about living it.

Why is it that despite knowing with absolute certainty that we’re going to die, we still live our lives like we’ve got forever?

Is it something to do with our brains inability to accept the certainty of an impending end? Or is it just human nature to ignore something that doesn’t have a date?

I don’t have the answer right now, but one thing I know is that our illusion of time is doing us more harm than good.

On This Illusion Of Time

The illusion of time as I use it in this post has nothing to do with what the concept means in physics. Here I refer to it as the conviction in all of us that we’re going to live to a ripe ol’ age and our blatant dismissal of the possibility of an imminent death.

I might die today, I might go out and be run over by a truck, or I might sleep at night and quietly slip away.

There’s only a 50-50 chance that I’ll live to tomorrow.

Same goes for you.

This is a fact that’s been proven again and again.

Yet we make decisions of our lives seemingly oblivious of it.

Let me ask…

If you’re to discover today that you have less than a week to live, will you be 100% satisfied with the way you’ve lived your life so far?

Will you be satisfied with the difference you’ve made in the little time you were given? Will you be able to take a deep breath and say, well… it was a life well lived, I’m ready to go?

99% of the time the answer is no.

You know why? Because our illusion of time wouldn’t let us do the things that truly matter, when it matters, and that’s what Mattie never suffered from.

We’re always postponing, procrastinating and making excuses, ignoring that insistent voice in our heads calling us to make a difference, warning us about the passage of each minutes that we cannot account for.

We procrastinate the most important things because we feel we’ve got forever and a day, but forever and a day persistently draws closer to zero day until one day we wake up and realise we’re out of time.

mattie stepanek

On The Shortness of Life

We’ve all known people… normal people who die so suddenly and unexpectedly. Babies die, youths die in their prime, people die without reasons.

Life is short.

Not because the time given to us is short, no… not necessarily, but because we don’t have a clue when it’ll all end and so we have to expect it and be ready for it all the time.

Besides, not all of us will live to a ripe old age of 100, even though all of us seem to think and behave as if we will.

The difference between Mattie and the rest of us is: He lived everyday of his life as if it was his last. He tried so hard to make as much impact as he could before he finally goes back to his maker.

Because he didn’t just know that life is short, he felt it in his bones and nerves and muscles. The Knowledge occupied his every waking moment and pushed him hard to chase his purpose and make a difference.

Now most of us are not blessed (or cursed, depending on the way you see it) as such.

So how can we live normal healthy lives and still be everything we can be; everything our Creator intends us to be?

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what the answer is.

I’ve read about the life changes that happens to people who get diagnosed with cancer and are told they’ve got only a few more month to live.

So suddenly, priorities change. The things that use to matter get pushed to the fringes while those that used to be taken for granted becomes the most important.

All frivolities are made away with. There’s no longer time to waste; every second counts.

But do we have to wait to be diagnosed with a terminal disease before we live right, find our purpose, make a difference or become better people?

Of course not.

Perhaps the magic isn’t in being diagnosed with a terminal disease at all, it’s in knowing you’ve got a deadline.

Make the end of everyday your deadline to do all the things you ought to do today. Make everyday count by doing all the things that matter for that day and you’ll save yourself from the illusion of time.

Life is short, in the minute it took me to write this sentence, hundreds of people in the world have slipped to the other end. It coud be me next, it could be you.

Let’s stop living like we’ve got forever when we’re not even sure of the next minute.

The only time that we truly have is now.

Do the things that truly matter when it matters, because you might not be blessed with another chance.

Image Credits: Old man smiling
Follow me

Jamila Mustapha

I'm a freelance writer, blogger, and translator. I started The Midas Finger blog to explore ways we can live up to our highest potential, because I believe by living any other way, we do ourselves a great disservice.
Follow me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *