While driving back from a haircut this morning, I spotted a group of turkeys happily pecking at the ground inside an open pen, fattening, no doubt, for the upcoming feast. Little do they know, I thought to myself, what fate awaits them.
It’s no different for us — maggot food.
For how certain are we that death is not sharpening its scythe this very moment with us in mind? As it is, most of us behave as if death were an unfounded rumor, as said Aldous Huxley.
The privilege of living another twenty-four hours is daily denied to 150,000 people, ranging with cruel indifference from the stillborn to the senescent. The rest of us are pardoned turkeys.
Isn’t this realization reason enough to make you want to leap with joy? To make amends, repair frayed relationships, remind those you love how precious they are, or finally give wings to your dreams?
What is the past if not unfinished business? asks poet Stephen Dunn. What are you waiting for anyway? A little more money perhaps? Retirement?
“Just as soon as…”
There is no time for anything but meaningful acts if we live with death as our eternal companion, wrote Carlos Castaneda. Why not live life with the urgency of the terminally ill?
There is a word in German, Torschlusspanik, which literally means “gate-closing panic” — the feeling that opportunities and options are shutting down. But rather than panic, think of it this way: every time you are about to experience something, whether a solitary walk, a kiss, a warm embrace or a blazing sunset or haunting moonrise, assume it won’t happen again. Every act will then acquire a heightened intensity and deeper meaning.
It was Heidegger, a German philosopher, who said we should spend more time in graveyards. Go visit one, and when you do, imagine a mirror in every tombstone and your name in every obituary. I bet you won’t be saying, “just as soon as…”
So this Thanksgiving, as you sit by your loved ones, take a good look at the dead turkey on the platter and be grateful you were among the pardoned ones. Give thanks for one more day — one last chance perhaps — to say or do what you’ve been meaning to.
Enjoy the feast!