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Scream in Meetings for a Touch of The Unexpected
Are zoom calls making you stupider?
“Let’s circle back on that,” she says. “We’ll parallel path some solutions and then synergize something.”
“Sounds good!” he says. “Let’s put a pin in our other discussion for now. Can you make a doc so we can brainstorm on that later?”
The third guy unmutes. “Sure,” he says. “And, I just want to broach this before I forget: we’re all going to die.”
Safety Lulls You into a Trance
“We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end to them.”
Thousands of years later, Seneca’s words soundly weirdly modern, don’t they?
We all work so incredibly hard for our safety: we studied hard, got into the best school we could, studied more, then applied to hundreds of jobs. Here we are, paid well enough. Living “well enough.” In our desperate attempt to stave off death, we have built a wall that fools us into thinking he’s not coming. Bad news: he’s coming.
And in our fortress of “don’t mention the D-word,” we have surrounded ourselves with other death-denying sycophants. None of them, God forbid, are going to remind us that our days are limited.
So, what do we do?
Put a Skull on Your Desk
Many people famously kept a skull on their writing desks. Who cares who, exactly. Shakespeare, Marcus Aurelius, or Chuck Norris — pick your hero.
Anyway, years ago I told my college girlfriend about this tidbit. For my birthday that year, she got me one. An exact replica of a real person’s human skull (I sometimes wonder about this person — what were they like?) To this day, I keep the skull near my desk.
Why? Because living like you’re not going to die is a perfect way to waste your life.
My Near-Death Experience
In an unassuming crosswalk in Houston, Texas, I walked when the little white man (hmm?) appeared on the indicator.
Moments later, a stretch, pink hummer is blasting toward me at around 70 MPH. Later, I would guess he was trying to goose it across a yellow-light-turning red.
There I am, a few yards away from my probable death. The cliches are true: time slowed down, my mind worked incredibly quickly, and I saw important people flash before my eyes.
Most importantly, I realized this: death is fine.
It’s hard to explain. Death is not the monster we make him out to be. Once I thought it was truly over for me (meaning, my entire being and body knew that there was not much use in struggling — I was going to die and it wasn’t in my control), weirdly, I relaxed.
I thought, “What a weird time to die. So much I still wanted to do. Oh well, here we go…”
In extreme slow motion, I watched the front-left tire of the hummer. Inch by inch, I saw it move to the left. Slowly and calmly, I stepped to the right.
The hummer whipped by me an inch away from my chest — I went right and it went left. The horn doppler effect’d as it went by.
I survived. If I had panicked, I would have died.
What does something like that do to a human brain?
What Everyone Who Jumps off The Golden Gate Bridge Thinks
“Oh, fuck, I actually would like to continue living…”
Not everyone survives the jump to tell the tale — but everyone who jumps and somehow survives says the same thing: the moment they jumped, they wished they hadn’t.
Simultaneously, they notice (like I did) that death is less of a big deal than they thought.
This is an incredible observation, I think: The crippling fear of death drives people to suicide.
That’s a Mobius strip of confusing motives — of course, something that human beings are very capable of. Why do humans become overwhelmed by our fear of dying to the point that we want to die?
It’s because every fear that we refuse to face, grows.
Meditate on Death
This is irrefutable in psychology: if you want to get over a crippling fear, you have to do exposure therapy.
If you’re afraid of small spaces, you have to start small and slowly introduce yourself to what you fear. Over time, your fear will dissipate.
The same exact thing is true about death. You need to meditate on death every single morning to make sure you’re not wasting your life.
In a study, people who write about their lives (AKA emotional exposure therapy) do worse in the short term and way better in the long term. This isn’t just self-reported claims — they also visited the doctor less and made more money.
How weird is that? By taking more poison, you make yourself an antidote.
More death in your life is the cure for death anxiety.
In fact, since death is the ultimate fear, meditating on death is the ultimate cure for general anxiety.
There’s a reason people have been recommending this stuff for literally thousands of years.
Don’t Let the Mundane Stop You
People stay on the surface.
They do endless Zoom calls about almost nothing of import to avoid their existential thoughts.
Then, they complain about “wasting time,” which they would rather spend in a near-coma while watching Netflix (nothing against Netflix — have you seen Stranger Things 4? Really good).
I’m not saying you go around screaming, “We’re all going to die!”
I’m saying if you do the internal work of facing your fears about death, you will automatically become a brighter and more useful person to the people around you.
Then, there will be no need to have a breakdown on a Zoom call.
If you’ve made it this far, I have a challenge for you.
Meditate on death every day for 30 days.
Think about what it will be like to die: What you wish you did by then. What you don’t want to regret.
Then, do me a favor and let me know how it goes.