What Are You Worth?

What are you worth?

It’s not a thought that often crosses the forefront of our mind, but I’d wager that for many, an arbitrary value exists somewhere in the recesses of thought.

This topic was brought about by a conversation I had with some close friends, where I proposed them the following scenario with a single question;


 

“Suppose you are diagnosed with a chronic illness. And unfortunately, the doctor informs you that this illness will bring about your imminent demise. In fact, you will die, tomorrow.

However, the doctor informs you that while there is no cure, there is a treatment, in the form of a single pill. Now what this pill does, is keep you effectively staving off the effects of the disease, for one day.

There are many of these pills, and they are readily available to you. The pill cannot be stacked, but it will work continuously.

i.e. You cannot take six pills and live for six more days, but for every pill you take, you get to live for one more day, specifically the following. So you must take this pill every morning, to continue living for the rest of that day.

Now for the question; at what cost, do you STOP paying for the pill?”

*Perhaps answer the question for yourself, before reading any further.


 

I found this such an interesting question to pose to my close friends, particularly because of the first response I got, when I had asked a clearly startled colleague

Although I am not afraid of death, and in fact, I struggle to identify when you can even call someone truly dead (a topic for another day), I still would always answer – “I would pay anything for the pill.”

I assumed this was an obvious answer, that everyone has the same zest and desire for life, and that my colleague would respond in kind. But instead she replied, “Nothing. I would not pay anything for that pill.”

I was shocked. This completely bewildered me. My colleague doesn’t come across as an unhappy person, and yet I must confess, this was my immediate reaction, although I did not vocalise it. But then immediately, she followed it up with, “I wouldn’t want to leave anyone behind, with a burden of paying for that medicine.”

In a roller-coaster of emotion, I now felt incredibly selfish. I had not even considered the people I would leave behind. In my mind, I thought I would do anything to continue paying for that pill, in the sense of I would accept every inch of the responsibility. But then on further examination of my conscience, I think even if I did leave a burden upon the living… I don’t know. I think my answer still might be “I would do anything for that pill.”

While I cannot know for certain, and it is indeed all a thought experiment, I cannot think of a time when I would condemn myself, to my final day on Earth, voluntarily.

And yet, I then decided to propose a different scenario upon myself alone, based on the famous trolley question;


 

“Suppose I am working in a laboratory, and there is an accident with a spilled contaminant. This contaminant bubbles and breathes gas into the lab. This chemical is lethal when inhaled.

You and your lab partner, the only people in the room, rush to the two hazmat suits in the corner. But unfortunately as you get there, you discover one suit has been ripped, and is rendered useless.

The person who does not wear the suit, will not die a painful death. But they will die over the next minute. There is no cure as of yet, and they will not be revived.

Your partner has abstained from making the decision, and will readily accept yours.

Do you take the suit for yourself, or do you give it to your partner?”

*Again, perhaps answer the question for yourself, before reading any further.


 

Now with this question, my answer immediately would be, “I would give the suit to my partner.”

But again upon closer and initial inspection, it seems that there is a bit of an oxymoron between these two answers on my part. It doesn’t rightly make sense for me to fight so unyielding for my life, and yet on a different breath, give it up so readily.

Now perhaps I am perfectly willing to sacrifice my life for another’s. And I’m sure most people would like to believe this also. Hopefully we will be fortunate enough never be put in that situation, and have to even find out.

But here is where I am torn. I believe you should work hard to leave some part of you on this universe. That you should leave it in some kind of better state than when you found it.

And the idea of granting someone a life, by sacrificing mine helps me fulfil that. But just giving up on my life, doesn’t necessarily fulfil it for me. I think that’s why I fight so hard for the pill. With the pill, I can still try. I can still try with every second of my life to make the universe better in some way. But what if in doing that, I actually make it worse for those I leave behind?

What I’m also concerned with, is I think I would fear the idea of my last day, and my last thoughts, not being good ones. The idea of going home, putting on some TV, calling up far away family members to tell them the news, and gathering with closer family to be with me, and then just passing away – I don’t think it makes the cut for me. I could not have, an ordinary day be my last, without knowing if I truly made the world a better place with my time spend on it. But with the chemical spill thought, I can at least die a hero. Regardless of what I’ve done, some of it may be redeemed, and my successor can continue to do good in this world, because I gave them that chance.

Ultimately; I don’t know.

I don’t believe for the time being I have an answer to these questions both. I think it will take many more conversations and much more time thinking about this before I could propose an answer. Maybe by the time I come to the conclusion, my thoughts on the whole thing might have changed. This, I really do not know.

But with my thought and opinions as they stand today fully out there, let me ask you; What are you worth?

Shorts: Adelante

It does not matter how far you go, and certainly not how fast.

Whether you run, walk or crawl; go forward. “Adelante.”

Sometimes you’ll move on flat ground, and other times it will be considerably more mountainous. The destination is always changing, so don’t worry about reaching the pinnacle. It is a false peak. And that isn’t something to be worried about, in fact it’s magnificent. You will always strive for bigger and better.

And when you are on that journey, don’t worry about looking for a path, or necessarily even a guide, for those paths often travelled may not have the best view, and the ground below may be worn. Also, while you may take the same path as someone else for whatever reason, there is no telling what kind of shoes that person wore, how far along the path they started, or if they were carried there by someone else.

Do not compare, comparison is the enemy of joy. Instead keep a goal in sight, and off-road your way there. Learn to enjoy the bumps in the road, rather than wallow in anticipation of them.

If you find that you’ve got yourself turned around; either because you’ve been blinded by fog, or you’ve had your eyes closed for so long, don’t worry about it. You can turn right around, realign yourself to your goals, and march. Maybe you tripped. Maybe you failed. Don’t worry. Realign. March.

Sometimes obstacles will get in your way. Not only that, but they will push you back and with great evil intent and fervour. You may be kidnapped for a bit, to another place. Perhaps convinced to head in a direction, you wish you had avoided. You will be pulled and prodded, bruised, and tired. You will wear, and tear, and find yourself short of breath. Beautiful trees around you may be replaced with the winter worn. Colours may conspire to grey themselves, and your destination may look bleak.

Life may not be kind. It may be unfair. And when it beats you down, it sees its advantage and it beats you down even more.

But when you lay on hand and knee, after you’ve been beaten by the day.

Simply whisper to yourself; “Adelante.”

People who cross at traffic signals.

If you can, at any point in life, be the person who decides when to cross at traffic signals, irrespective of their colour.

When you are on your way to work, or spending an idle day in the presence of a busy street, watch the people who wait by the traffic signals.

When the light for pedestrians is red; stand and watch. You’ll see a spattering of different humans, each categorised into a few different tropes, of which you will fall into one.

There are those who stand still, on their phone, gathering news, messaging friends, and ultimately and more truthfully, watching videos of animals being cute or humans falling over. These people have no concern for the traffic, for they know when to move, as the periphery of their eyes tell them that the bodies around them have begun to shuffle. And so too they canter to keep up.

There are those who listen to something on their headphones. Perhaps it’s a podcast, a motivational speech, an audio book, or some music. But whichever it is, they will stare blankly as possible across to the other side of the road, until perhaps at some point a smile will curl up from the edges of their mouth. It’s a song they like. Or maybe they’ve related to something said. They normally pay more attention to the traffic signals than those mentioned before.

There are the elderly, who rather consistently will not be on their phones, or listening to music. Largely they have grown without it, and unlike the younger generations can continue to do so, without trepidation, or the fear of the world passing them by.

There are the confident or perhaps flirtatious people, who can be an extension of the first two, except that these people are merely pretending to be doing what they are not doing. They instead, are thinking about how they look, and trying to appear as casual as possible, as they occasionally catch eyes with someone across the street. They smile and look at the floor, or up to the sky. Funnily enough, this casual attitude will extend as they both pass each other in the road when the lights do change. Unlike in adverts for perfume, no one ever meets in the middle of the road. Unless flattened.

There are people, who are eagerly awaiting the changing of the traffic lights, because a friend or loved one awaits them on the other side. These people have most likely forgotten all rules of social conduct, as they cheer and wave at their counterpart. Sometimes they’ll even shout words, that when taken out of context are either deathly frightening, or intolerably intriguing.

There are people who are anywhere between the age range of young to elderly, who are not on their phones, they are not listening to music, and they are not particularly looking at anything around them. These are insane people. Avoid these people.

There are a few other tropes, but as the list goes on, more so do they reach into sub-genres of the above mentioned. Regardless, the sustenance was never whom the crowd consists of; it is that they are waiting at the red light when they need not be. For there are only two options when there is a red light, either there is traffic coming, or there is not. And yet from our 50% chance, I would wager that 99% of the time, people are waiting. People are just standing… waiting.

Why? Unless jaywalking laws are particularly strict in your country… Why are you waiting? What are you waiting for? You do not need to listen to a light. If you are listening for the light, I can assure you, you will not hear it. This light is a guide, not a rule. Cross the road, if you wish to do so. Get to where you need to be, regardless of who is telling you otherwise. Regardless of who around you has chosen not to move forward, or stand still; you don’t need to listen to that whatsoever.

Take your surroundings, or advice, or rules, as a basis for caution; but do not let it hinder you. Because when you cross at a traffic signal, when the light is red, and no traffic is coming; you will notice something remarkable. Suddenly, 99% of people have begun to move. And now it all becomes silly, how such a small thing had been stopping them all along.

You can tell a lot about a person by how they act at traffic signals. Be a brighter beacon than that dim light telling you what to do.

– While this is all well and good, there is an addendum to this, which acts as an exception.

When the traffic lights turn green for pedestrians to move, and everyone starts moving; Watch for who is left behind. If someone stumbles or falters, perhaps they are unsure or need a hand – Stay. Wait. Help them. Take valuable time out your day, to make them feel valuable too.

For if you rush too far ahead, and leave all those in need of a little help behind you, perhaps you will turn around to find, that you left a better version of yourself behind also.

You can tell a lot about a person by how they act at traffic signals.

So perhaps the next time you’re beginning a new day, you’re at a crossroads, and you need to make a decision, remember this article. And reflect on how the traffic signals had nothing to do with anything.

Important thoughts, thought last.

The fourth beat;

I know it’s coming, and I calm myself.

The body is still in shock, but my mind is settled in its own.

As I lay back in my bed, I know now that it is too late to bargain.

Death’s machination; It has already begun.

Instead, I quickly pray for my last thought, to be a good one.

Although, my current thought feels persistent in the back of my mind

Clinging on, as though it will not leave me.

And that thought; I simply do not want to go.

The third beat;

The light begins to darken at the edges of my eyes, and my ears betray my balance.

If I were not sitting down, surely I would have fallen.

My head slowly falls back onto my pillow. Its final resting place.

I look at the pattern on the roof, the cracks and the fissures.

Straining my eyes I try, to fully capture one final picture.

One final still frame, called a moment. A memory.

My head falls to the side; and I see my condensation encrusted beer on my bedside table.

Amber leaves out the window, falling in the wind.

Sunlight always finds a way.

The second beat;

Closed eyes. It goes on, doesn’t it? Life. Whether I am here, or not, it continues.

Leaves will continue falling.

Sunlight will continue to brighten.

Beer will continue to sweeten the lips of lovers.

And it could not end, for nothing ever has. Every end must surely be a beginning.

Every bad time came to a close, every good time did not last.

Even now, my final thoughts do not belong to the same person in which in this body was born.

Not one single part of me has been the same. I was someone different all through my life.

And so in many ways, so many of me never did die. Or perhaps they already have.

The final beat;

I do not want to go. I do not fear nothing, for nothing has never existed.

I have never understood. And as I reflect, my life seems iridescent.

The humbling of I being one of many; and yet the grandiosity of knowing

That the universe in all its grandeur, existed within the circumference of my eye.

And while my final thoughts are of understanding, acceptance, friends, family and cold beer.

I cannot help think, as the light comes down low.

I simply do not want to go.

Temporary

Everything, is temporary.

One of the quickest ways to become hopeful is to remember that.

One of the quickest ways to become ungrateful is to forget it.

When you have found yourself surrounded by loved ones, be that friend or family, when you have a hobby or a job that you enjoy that occupies your day or night, when your hard work ultimately has paid off; you can remain humble by remembering that simple phrase.

At some point or another, that which you are experiencing at the time you call here and now, will end. It’s not something to fear, or to be sad about. An end always leads to a beginning, and vise versa. It is cyclical, and otherwise known as “change”.

It may lead to something much better. It may lead to something worse. But for the moment when all is good, you need only remember that phrase to remain grateful. Be in that moment, and enjoy it for everything it is. Every sight, every sound, every scent and touch. Every pleasant thought. It’s yours; and in this exact moment, no one can take that away from you.

Equally, when times are bleak; when the walk home seems steeper than you remember, or when colours have conspired to grey themselves, reminding yourself of the above can give you some sanity, when perhaps you can find none.

Be it lighthearted physical pain after or during exercise, and you’re struggling to power through – you can simply remember that as it is temporary, you will recover. You can push yourself a little further, the results will be much more impressive, and you will feel the benefits for longer.

If, however, for example you have found yourself struggling to cope with the loss of someone (this can be through death or otherwise) you can take solace in those words to live by. There is no guarantee that temporary will mean an hour, a day, a month, or even a year; but the fact that what you are experiencing is temporary is an absolute certainty.

Change will come, as it always has. The universe abhors staying still. It does not create or destroy, it only changes.

You will be okay. And you will change with whatever comes next. It only takes time.

It just so happens that time is a funny old thing. Always fleeting. The moment you try to grasp onto it, it is gone. So, rather, let it go. Accept that times change, and so do you. Simply enjoy that moment, that only the you in that moment, will ever experience.

Everything, is temporary. Including you.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

“You know what I meant.”

No, I think I know what you meant. It is very rare that you will converse with a person and they will understand exactly what you trying to convey to them. More than likely, they will get a rough estimation of what you’re saying, and even get very close to understanding to what you said verbatim – but if they pass on this information, it will be tarnished with the brush of their own perspective and their own understanding. Like a grand game of Chinese Whispers, it will be lost. Unfortunately, as your words are bound and punished by the words you did not say, someone can always infer, and apply a different meaning to that which you said. At least in it’s true sense of what was meant when you said it.

It is why you must think carefully about the words you choose to describe what you’re trying to explain, for it reduces the chances that it will be so blatantly different at varying degrees of the future. You should never have to say the words, “You know what I meant” for most likely that person took interest, and was looking for clarification.

That clarification and classification of an idea is perhaps the single most important explanation you will ever give, because an idea is the only thing in our lives that transcends time. Words do not transcend time, but an idea does.  It’s why it’s so important not to become so recluse. You must express everything that you have, everything that is core and important to you, because once an idea is seeded, it dies only with the last person who heard of it. It is equally why the great never die, because as long as someone remembers them, they are gone only in body, not in mind or effect.

An idea can be dangerous, all of the most extremist people you know of are founded on the basis of someone’s idea, someone who chose to vocalise their opinion despite being in the minority at the time. They could infer from text, either because it was written poorly or mistranslated  or they applied their own meaning to it. Whenever we feel we cannot express an idea, we must remember this – the iniquitous of the world do not get a night off, so neither do we. But rather than extremism, we must explore creativity, knowledge, expression, kindness, what it means to be one with nature. These things will bring us happiness, and can bring others happiness, not by force, but by education.

As people misinterpret the text, and yet feel so innately attuned to it, they will commit to that which no one ever wanted until they had perceived it to be as such. You could wager that no belief or religion ever founded was intended to create hurt, but instead create or define purpose – however a misinterpretation in the meaning of the text, and translations over the years, resulted in many people being hurt and killed in the name of atonement. In the name of the idea spoken or written, but not intended.

As you choose to express yourself to the world and to others, you must find out that which you mean to say, and then choose the words deliberately in such a way that you see it. An idea is a thought, and to translate it to a language is more difficult that you can imagine.

This is where we require the poets, the writers and the philosophers. The job of these people is to find the detail, the beauty in the things which go unnoticed. That which goes unsaid. Think – we walk everyday of our lives. Yet it is those who think of these things, that notice we are falling and catching ourselves every time that we do. There is beauty in this when we discuss how we can ever pick ourselves up again after a fall. We already do it everyday. While this is a rather outlandish example, the principle remains the same. There is beauty in the idea, in reality, and the correct words to which you express it.

There are millions of words and syntaxes from which we can choose, and to misuse our languages, to say “very good” – is pure Newspeak. We should not add a plus to the beginning of a word, or the minus to it, or at least we should try our hardest not to, for there are so many other beautiful words which will describe it more eloquently and succinctly – You see a man sitting in a room by himself with a TV on in the centre, he’s smiling. Is he happy? Or is he content? Because there is a distinction. And while to be content means to be free, it is important to note that one can be content but not necessarily happy. Equally, you may tell someone that you are sad, but are you melancholy, or have you been devastated by a loss? The distinction will prove more beneficial to you in the long run, this you can be assured.

The distinction of words and ideas are essential to the growth of our cultures, and ourselves as human beings. It is our responsibility as a species. To write, to imagine, to inspire, and to wonder, would be a most beautiful life.

“There is nothing outside of the text.”

Do you know what I mean?