Thinking about death or how your life could end tomorrow shouldn’t make you sad. It shouldn’t make you feel anxious about how little time you may have left. On the contrary, it should free you. It should inspire you.
Mentally it should give you that empowered, grateful, selfless, bonus-round attitude best captured by Martin Luther King Jr., who said these words, just hours before he would suddenly and fatally meet an assassin’s bullet:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land.”
Obviously, a strong faith in a higher power was part of what allowed King to feel so secure in his purpose and confident about an afterlife. But that’s not the only way to get there.
A person who is simply grateful for every day they have experienced, who is measured and disciplined in their actions – never cutting corners or wasting time – and who have done their best with what they’ve been given, has been to their own kind of mountaintop.
Dr. King’s selfless, tireless servant leadership was also what allowed him to be confident and content, deservedly so, even if there was no reward in heaven for it.
“When an individual says, ‘I have lived!’,” then I can say in return, “every morning you arises is a bonus.” The same goes for the one who has striven to make the world a better place, who has worked to win the Civil War raging within themselves (the war, as Dr. King said, between good and evil), and the person who has helped their fellow human beings.
It is an unmistakable tragedy that Martin Luther King was taken from us early (he’d be 90 years old this year). But it would have been even more of tragedy had he not lived every minute of the four decades he was given. Just as it would be a tragedy if you were to waste any more of your years.
Get working. Make your way to the mountaintop while you still have the time and the energy.
By Brian Nadon