The Importance of Living in the Present

It’s interesting how we don’t really appreciate the gift of life until we see death, destruction, and disease around us. Allow me to explain by telling you a story from my time in Taipei.

One beautiful Saturday morning, I went to my local hospital for a routine physical exam. I entered the monolithic building and was instructed to first go downstairs and get two photos taken of myself. I soon found the elevator and pressed the button for B2.

As soon as I got out of the elevator, I ran smack-dab into a huge sign that read “Morgue.” I nearly laughed out loud, as it caught me by surprise. After getting the two photos taken, I walked back to the elevator, again seeing the enormous sign displaying “Morgue.” This time I stood right in front of it for about 10 seconds and stared straight at it, figuring that there was no one else down there, and for good reason – as far as I know, dead people cannot get up and walk around.

I then went back upstairs and to the examination area, where they proceeded to check my height, weight and blood pressure. When I got there, I saw this old bald man in a wheelchair, with his mouth wide open, his eyes in some kind of daze, and sprawled onto the wheelchair, unable to move. He was probably a stroke victim.

I stopped and stared at him for a few seconds, more out of surprise than intention. I figured he wouldn’t have even had the ability to get up and tell me off for staring at him, but at any rate, he did not seem to care.

But that old man could be any one of us in a few years, so I moved right along and got those tests done, then went downstairs and got my blood and urine samples taken care of. And that was the end of my physical exam, though not the end of the death and morbidity I witnessed that day.

I went outside and started walking back to my apartment, and along the way I saw a group of four or five adorable Chihuahuas. They were all running around and prancing playfully, until one of them wandered out onto the street and was quickly turned into a heaping mess of blood and guts by a car that sideswiped it.

As the dog lay on the road, gushing blood like a small fountain, a little girl stood there crying her eyes out. A man calmly walked over to the dog, picked it up by its legs, and dropped it into a nearby bush, while the other Chihuahuas curiously looked on, and then went over to it. I don’t know what happened afterward, as by that time I had already walked away, since there was nothing I could do about it. That whole scene I just described took no more than about 15 seconds.

And so it is with our lives, on this physical planet Earth. Your life on this material planet Earth can be ended in seconds. But because you may not be able to relate with an old man or a Chihuahua, here’s a story about a young man.

A few months prior to that event, I had attended a networking meeting in Southern California. After the meeting, I gave myself these three pieces of advice: savor and truly appreciate each day you are alive and healthy, understand and accept that tomorrow might be your last day, and forget about little annoyances that do not matter in the grand scheme of things.

The inspiration came from a woman who told us about her 28-year-old boyfriend, who had recently contracted lymphoma and who doctors had not given much chance to live. As horrible as that news is, it should inspire us to be grateful for everything we have in our lives now and realize that we have been given many years of gifts, every single morning.

One way to look at life is that you are here to actualize your divine purpose. So don’t let yourself down, and don’t let your multitude of “fans” down. There’s a whole world waiting out there to receive your gifts, starting today.

And part of being able to deliver those gifts to the world is by cultivating the right attitude, and that attitude is this: savor and truly appreciate each day you are alive and healthy, understand and accept that tomorrow might be your last day, and forget about little annoyances that do not matter in the grand scheme of things.

I sincerely hope that 28-year-old guy recovered and beat the lymphoma, just like one of my friends beat leukemia. But no matter what happens, I want you to fully understand and accept that that 28-year-old could have been you. The fact that it isn’t you is a gift that you must be grateful for.

But in today’s society, most people do not have lymphoma – they have other things instead. They have anxiety, inaction, and unhappiness. Those can be killers of life just as much as lymphoma is. Thus, why not start enjoying life right now and being grateful for everything, no matter what happens?

In the self-help community, they often point out that the average person in a first-world developed country lives about 28,000 days (nearly 77 years). If you turned 30 years old today that would be 10,950 days lived so far. Some of you have lived more days than that and some of you less. Go ahead and total up the number of days you have lived so far. It will really put things in perspective and make you understand just how valuable your time on this Earth is.

But the more important question is how many days do we have left? That’s the crucial question, and unfortunately, not one that we can answer. This means that every day we get is a precious gift, one that we shouldn’t fritter away doing useless things or making excuses for ourselves. We should make the best use of these presents, because no one knows how many more presents we have left. So this week, how will you spend the time you have?

Will you go after things you want? Or continue making excuses, such as: “It can’t be done,” “It’s impossible,” “It’s not for me,” “I didn’t want it anyway,” “What will my family think,” “Life shouldn’t be so difficult,” etc.

Life actually isn’t difficult or easy – it simply doesn’t care about you. Stop thinking life should be easy, or that it is difficult and should be overcome.

In fact, stop thinking so much, and just keep moving forward. That’s the problem we have nowadays. We intellectualize life too much, when we should just be living it.

It all happens right now.

Go for it!

Leave a Reply