What really is certain?

by Carrie Pokrefke

Most people think that Benjamin Franklin was the first one to say that “nothing is certain except for death and taxes,” but it was actually Christopher Bullock in The Cobler of Preston. The thing is, you CAN stay off the grid and not pay taxes.  (And honestly, there is actually no law that requires you to pay federal taxes, but I digress.)  So, if you can avoid taxes, then the only certain thing in life is death. 

Death or Taxes?

Death or Taxes?

Death Cab for Cutie has a song titled, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.”  The theme of the song is that when his lover dies, he will follow her into the dark.  The first line is “Love of mine, some day you will die.” Ben Gibbard gets it.  

Some people think this is a morbid song, but I think it’s sweet.  In general, most of us think talking about death is morbid.  Unhealthy.  But the truth is, it’s just a part of life.  Like eating or breathing.  Or going to work and making money.  But, here’s the thing.  We’re all going to die.  It’s not a great mystery in life whether or not we will die. It’s a certainty.  It’s not an “if,” but a “when.”

I was watching Tony Robbins’s Ted Talk, “Why We Do What We Do” the other night. As I was drifting off to sleep that night, one thing he brought up during his talk struck me. 

He asked the crowd, “When do people really start to live?….When they face death.” 

You’ve heard the story of the woman who discovered she has cancer and is only given a few months to live, but goes skydiving or trains for an Ironman.  Or maybe a guy who was diagnosed with a terminal illness who quits his job and travels around the world.  These people have faced their mortality and went out and lived their life to the fullest.  

Tony is right.  People do start to live when they face death.  

I think not talking about death and avoiding the topic is unhealthy.  It’s denying one of our most human characteristics.  We cannot live forever.  We will not live forever.   Once I truly accepted my mortality (thank you M. Scott Peck!) and faced death, that’s when I started living life.  I jokingly say, “We only get one ride on this merry go round!” I really thought about the fact that I don’t know how long I will be on earth.  I don’t know when my ride will end.  That helped me stop taking my breaths  for granted and start be more conscious of what I do with my time. 

Our life is just that – our life.  It’s ours to live to the fullest or not.  We can sit back and let life happen to us or we can chose to take advantage of the opportunities we are given.  We can make the world a better place.  We can go after our dreams and turn them into realities.  I think that’s what is really cool about life.  It’s up to us.