Paris, France

July 21, 2019

On Death

This past week, spread out on the Champs de Mars, waiting for the long afternoon to turn into dusk - and fanfare to light up the Eiffel Tower for Bastille Day, I read When Breath Becomes Air.

I finished the book, the light faded, and fireworks and music poured from the tower, a choreographed dance against the night. As it does every year, it pulled tears from my eyes, mixed from music and spectacle and how do I get to be here for this?

But as I walked home, and in the days since, I've been thinking a lot about death.

Not depression I-wish-could-die crazy thoughts death, but "nobody lives forever and neither will I" death.

Death - as a friend of mine in Aotearoa says - as a wise companion.

Years ago, back when I was 15, I got the scare of my life.

Cancer. Esophageal. 95% of people are dead within two years.

A year-long story full of endoscopes and fundoplications and a scar that bisects my torso later, other, more senior doctors decided it wasn't cancer. I recovered from the surgeries and went back to school like nothing had happened.

But there was a jarring to being 15 and being told you probably have two years left that's never left me. It's driven me to try big things and take risks and live every day aligned with the things I believe in, because you never really know in life.

But over the last three years, settling in to the idea of having a long-term partner - settling in to the idea of long-term, I've started to think about projects that might take years. Even a decade.

These ideas still feel foreign, like building on quicksand - but there are also big things that I want to leave behind in the world that I can't do in a few short days.

Like any change of perspective, it's disorienting. Vertigo.

I find myself unsure of which way is up, how to create motivation and movement with a goal line so far out in the distance that I can't see it. How to move forward with only belief and a vague map as a guide, keep focused, keep moving.

And I think about death. How it comes for all of us, and how precious every one of these days we get really is.

Thanks for spending a little of your life with me and these words. I appreciate you.

Have a meaningful week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week was this video of South Korean balance artist Rocky Byun. His stunning art reminded me that everything I can see - everything - has a balance point.

p.p.s. I didn't quite get the roundtable replies finished this week - one thing I've learned in doing this is that it's both more amazing, and more work than I would have ever guessed. :) Fingers crossed for next week and thanks for all your patience!

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