The past week there were two separate events which impacted me more than usual, and I slipped into a familiar, melancholic and contemplative mood. The first was a story written by CEO of charity:water, and the second was reading the very last commit by Jim Weirich.
These two events are not connected in any way, except by the thin thread of technology which brought them to me. Yet they are eerily similar in a way, at least to me, for they are both extremely heartbreaking and thought-provoking.
The girl who hung herself
I cannot stop thinking about the girl who hung herself. It makes me think really, really hard about whether I have done enough as a human being, and whether there is anything I can do right now to be better at being one. What makes it worse is that I know that she is just one among the millions whose life would totally change if they ever saw a tap running fresh water in their entire lifetime.
Her story is being told, but what about the others?
The engineer whom they loved
Jim Weirich passed away at 57 last week. I wasn’t even part of the ruby community, but the love his community had for him was plain for all to see through the hundreds of messages left on his last commit.
Sometimes I think people may not take their work seriously or think much about the impact they may have on other people. The impact Jim left on his community was tremendous, if not life-changing for some. Everybody who had the privilege to come across his path was left for the better:
Jim, you left us with a ton of great code, but after meeting you I’ll miss your kind spirit the most.
When we create a piece of software, especially if it is widely used in the open-source community, we leave a piece of us in the world that remains alive for many years to come, whether it is forked into another piece of software, or whether it had taught a young programmer something. Jim left behind two legacies — his code obviously, and he left behind an example for us to follow:
RIP Jim. Creating Rake tasks was what got me into Ruby. Thank you for helping me break down barriers that I myself put up.
Think about this: the possibility that something you work on may change the course of someone’s destiny, the idea that your work may inspire someone to learn or strive to make the same amount of impact, if not more.
I think about my death a lot. I think about it more when I come across stories like the ones above. I told a couple of friends if I had 1% of that sort of love they displayed for Jim Weirich, I would die a very happy person. People around me often think I am morbid, or my frequent talk about dying makes them uncomfortable.
But most of them don’t understand this. I think about death a lot because I truly want to be alive. I don’t want to be under the illusion that I will definitely live up to whatever life expectancy I am supposed to have with my gender and race. I am fully aware that in the next second I may die of a brain aneurysm or some unexplain medical phenomenom. Or one fine day, some tree branch might decide to fall upon my head.
I don’t want to lulled into this false security of thinking there is always later, older, or next time. I don’t want to spend any time worrying about things which really do not matter in the grand scheme of what I want to accomplish. I don’t want to be chasing rainbows when I can be thinking of ways to make one thing better now. I don’t want to be riding horses because horses are in fashion when I can really make a more significant difference growing flowers slowly in an understated garden instead.
I cannot control how I would die, but I have some control over how I want to live now. My favorite question to ask, more often than I should, is “If I were to die the very next second/day/week/month/year, would I still be doing what I am doing now?” I switch the time period according to context, but mainly asking myself this question allows me true perspective and awareness on my own decisions.
This allows me to be fully present, to fully embrace my life and mortality, to understand the consequences and the weight of all my decisions. If I choose to be somewhere, it is taken with the consideration that this moment is worth it even if my life could be cut short one day.
I could live up to a hundred, or perhaps till tomorrow. It doesn’t really matter how long I will live, as long as along the way, I am fully conscious that I am doing my best to be truly alive.
This is one of my spur-in-the-moment mostly unedited and unfiltered pieces. I mostly prefer to write this way, because I am truly mostly unedited and unfiltered as a human being as well.