Socrates is said to have professed shortly before his own death that the practicing of dying is the highest level of wisdom.
Practice dying? What exactly does that mean? And, if you were to die tomorrow what would people say about you? Did your life have a purpose?
When I die people will ask not “What did he do?” but rather “What didn’t he do?” That is because I have such a lust for life and a true passion for each and every day coupled with a love for learning. Everyone has a purpose, and for me, part of my purpose is to speak from the heart; write from the soul; and to lead by inspiring myself, and others, to greatness.
There has actually been about four people that I have met who have died but were eventually brought back to life. They are a testament to Socrates’ practicing dying. They literally were practicing.
The first person, he was walking across the street when struck by a car who threw him over 30 feet in the air before he came crashing back to earth with his head hitting the pavement first. When the paramedics arrived, he was diagnosed as being DOA before they were finally able to revive him. It took him years to learn the basic necessities of life whether it was to speak, to eat or to drink a glass of water. His response to that harrowing day when he flew 30 feet in the air?
“It was the best day of my life.” He remarked confidently.
What? Why? How could this be seen as being the best day of his life?
In his own words, “I was such an asshole before” but his personality changed. He no longer worried. No longer did his life revolve around work but rather he learned to live and also work. When his coworkers would get anxious about his leaving at quitting time instead of staying late, he simply laughed. It was a new found laugh that he never had before the best day of his life.
The next person person was a stunning young woman who strode toward me with such confident strides. She approached where I was working, and we struck up a conversation. I asked her the usual general questions that somehow led to her telling of her story.
She was in a car that careened off the road knocking her not only unconscious but when the paramedics arrived she was DOA. They were able to revive her but when transported to the hospital she was advised by the doctors that they needed to amputate her leg.
Think about it. She wakes up. She finds out she was not merely in a car accident, but she died, and then – she is going to have her leg amputated.
Her response? It was the best day of her life.
Now it took years of introspection to come to this place of reflection, as she stood there before me, telling me her remarkable tale. She spoke eloquently about how the doctors told her that if her leg was not amputated she would not survive. And yet, she refused. As this amazing young woman was telling me this she lifted up her dress to show me the scar where a steel rod was now implanted into her leg. Her smile glowing as she spoke with such joy and appreciation in her words.
The appreciation she shared was for life’s beauty even in the most troubling of times. To be able to truly see the light a midst what is perceived as being the darkest of days is in of itself a beautiful way of seeing the world. It is also something I have seen as remarkably similar in every person who has shared their story of being DOA then revived. Each of them in their own way said, “it was the best day of my life.”
The question I have though is why does it take dying for us to learn to live? Most of us have not literally experienced dying but many of us have had periods in our life where it feels like the turmoil of the time is such that it is almost unbearable whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. It is from these times that we actually grow and become better, or more precisely, we have the opportunity to do so.
Why cannot we see the beauty that is all around us every day? There is beauty out there just not everyone sees it. Sometimes it takes the proverbial storm of all storms before we can truly appreciate the sun’s glorious rays.
In following the words of Socrates and practicing dying as he so suggests, I must say that I am eternally grateful for the great myriad of inspirations that have over the years crossed my path and brought me to where I am today. Having been eternally blessed with a wonderful support system starting with my parents and family, I had the foundation to grow and become as passionate about life as I am today. With the good fortunate to be surrounded by the most amazing people whether near or far, I have learned from a plethora of divine souls who have graced me with their wisdom and insight that has helped me in so many a ways from yesterday to today.
Whether it be a teacher who inspired me with their passion that shined like a beacon of light; or whether it be a friend who traveled together for years on the road to puberty falling more times than we ran and failing more times than we passed and yet still we found a way to laugh; or whether it be a stranger who out of the cover of darkness they shined a bit of kindness that was just enough to lead the way through and onto another day, there are thousands upon thousands of influential people who have crossed my way. They will continue to come and continue go their own way, and I in turn will continue to be grateful for their presence and appreciative of their time.
While I am sure it has happened, I cannot recall an instance where I have been hurt by someone. I am sure that like everyone else I have experienced pain and suffering but it is not something that I focus my attention. If someone has done me wrong I do not dwell on their transgressions, because I know not what someone is thinking or what ills they are hurting. Often the ones who hurt the most are themselves hurting the most. The most unloveable are sometimes the ones most in need of love.
So instead of focusing on the pain, I have chosen to focus my attention on healing myself of any wounds offering forgiveness as part of the process and being ever grateful even when I may not understand at the time the question why.
Tomorrow is yet a life time away and on that, and each and every new day, that I am fortunate enough to wake, I will not let but one go to waste. I will in each one find some way to live my purpose and to be of service to another. Whether it be great or small it matters not as long as I am lending a hand, offering a bit of generosity and practicing always kindness to one and to all.