“There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions, and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, ‘Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Now, lend me your horse and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.’
“The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it and dug his spurs in its flanks, and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and saw me standing in the crowd and came to me and said, ‘Why did you make a threating gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?’ ‘That was not a threatening gesture,’ I said, ‘it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.’”
You’ve just read an excerpt from one of my favorite novels. The book is Appointment in Samarra. The author is W. Somerset Maugham. The speaker, of course, is Death and the moral is crystal clear: Fearing or trying to avoid our ultimate demise is an absolute waste of time.
Each of us has an appointment with destiny. We can keep ourselves healthy and strong, we can teach ourselves to be kind and giving, we can create a peaceful place in which to dwell, and yet, none of these practices will allow us to cheat death or significantly influence the date on which we’ll leave this human state.*
Most of us already know this, but it doesn’t seem to affect the way we live day-to-day. We delude ourselves and operate as if we control our lives and its timeline. We make future plans to create new opportunities or take more vacations or volunteer for worthy causes, as if we have several lifetimes and hundreds of years to fill.
How many stories have you heard about retirees who waited all their lives to travel or start a new hobby, only to die of a heart attack or other unexpected ailment within their first year of freedom? To paraphrase John Lennon, “Life (and death) is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Waiting to enjoy your life is never a good plan. The time to live is now.
Children seem to understand this concept far better than adults. They feel an exciting sense of urgency to learn and to experience all that life has to offer as soon as possible. Do they make mistakes? Of course. Do they pick themselves up and start over? Definitely.
Adults, on the other hand, usually suppress this natural sense of urgency, forget how resilient they are and ignore the inner child pleading with them to follow their hearts desire.
Now is the time to make changes in your life. Start believing in your own brilliance and value. Get involved with causes that are important to you. And take time to tell the people you love how important they are to you. Now. An email or text to a special friend or lonely aunt requires less than 30 seconds.
Our expiration dates are not stamped anywhere on our bodies or our brains. They’re stamped on our souls in invisible ink so we’ll be compelled to discover all we can and decode life’s mysteries before our appointment arrives.
Doctors and scientists don’t really know any more than you do when it comes to lifespan either. They can give you an estimate or quote the latest statistics, but they vary widely and change constantly.
If you want control over something, you do control one thing: Your choices. And you only need to know one thing: Choose to live your life to the fullest. Every minute of every day.
What would you do differently if you knew the day you’ll die? What if it was many years from now? Can’t wait to hear your answers in the Comments section.
*By the way, did you know Death ranks second among people’s greatest fears? Number 1 is actually Public Speaking. Perhaps that’s why blogs have become so popular? They give us a voice with thousands of like-minded people without forcing us to stand before a crowd.