The View From the Top of Death Hill

I cannot guarantee much in life but I can absolutely guarantee that the vast majority of people alive at this moment will be dead before the next century arrives.

Including me.

We all think we understand this but do we? Or do we just put it out of our heads as if it isn’t likely to happen at all?

Ignoring death – for whatever reason – is a mistake –  because knowing – really knowing – that we will most definitely die – gives us perspective on living.

It’s as if death is a vantage point from which we can get the best view of our lives.

None of us know the day or the hour, the how or the why or the way of our death.

But we do know it is inevitable.

So maybe we should take off our blinkers and look around from the top of Death Hill and, seeing the vista of our lives, choose our paths?

This is what I have been thinking about lately.  Life.  Death.  Suffering.  But it’s hard to think about these things in a truly comprehensive way because they are so big.  I’ve always found that a useful thought experiment with the huge and indefinable is to imagine it smaller and easier to see.

So I made a list – not a very exciting list – a pretty boring Five Years and I’m a Memory list, in fact.  But while the items on the list were pretty unspectacular, the fact that the obstacle to every single thing on my list is the same, jumped off the page and mugged me a bit.

It sounds too simplistic to be true – but it is true.

It seems like a coincidence that it reminds me of Brené Brown’s TED talk on shame that I watched – and wrote about – last week – but it does.

According to my list, the single obstacle in the path of my life is what she describes as shame.  The big, fat, blood-sucking parasite of shame, tinged with fear and humiliation.  It turns out that I may well be waiting to be perfect and bullet-proof before acting in many ways. And that I am caught – like a demented insect – in the ‘I’m not good enough’/’Who do you think you are?’ bind.

Which is a bit of a shocker for me as if there’s one thing I would have thought I’d learned, that was to try.   I know that the lack of money or time or expertise or opportunity may influence my chances of success but none of those things can stop me from trying.

If you don’t make it you can’t sell it.

If you don’t try to fix it, it’ll stay broken.

If you don’t try to invent it, it’ll remain uninvented.

If you try, you may or may not succeed but if you don’t even attempt what you want to do/create/fix/dream then success is absolutely impossible.  And that’s a guarantee.  Like death.

Turns out I wasn’t applying that philosophy to everything in my life, which leaves me with lots to think about as I sit here atop Death Hill and survey the terrain.

If you’d like to think about death – and therefore really think about life – you might find this talk interesting –


  1. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us . . . .”

    You have so much light and you probably have no idea how many lives you have made a difference in with your blog posts. I have shared so many of your posts and/or the videos you have posted with friends and on FB, and they have in turn shared them on their Facebook walls . . . .

    So whatever it is you want to do, you should get out there and do it because you will not fail. You are already a huge success.

    1. I am most sincere when I tell you that your comment may well be the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me – it is so generous and kind I could hardly get my breath when I read it. Thank you. (and I did what you asked on the other post btw)

  2. I can never get enough TED talks–and many friends had been tweeting small tidbits from this one and referring to it on their own blogs. Thanks for reminding me of how we need to get a tad more comfortable with letting go of the flesh.

  3. What a Zen mind you’ve got and I’m smitten with its thinking.

    I believe the fear/shame combo is the most popular meal on the menu. Too bad, since you are rather accurate. If you don’t make it, it won’t sell.

    Like the idea for this post.

    ~ Live today as if you were on your deathbed, adding up regrets, then take the plunge.

  4. It’s weird that you posted this – I have been thinking about this same exact idea recently. I’ve been to more funerals than I would like lately and it’s really got me thinking over the past few months. Interesting video!

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