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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
EditorialsUp Front 11/11

Up Front 11/11

About 27 years ago, after I had watched my father succumb to cancer, I learned a profound lesson. It became blatantly obvious to me that very little of what I worried about in my life really mattered. Like most people I had become caught up in the minutia of life and allowed insignificant detail to interfere with the really important things: things like family, friends, community and living a decent life. It was a useful lesson but one easily forgotten as life became more complicated. I was reminded of it on two occasions recently; inevitably both times because of funerals. One occasion was at the funeral of a neighbour who had made it clear she wanted no eulogy. However, a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which was read at the service, not only summed up the enormous contribution she made as an individual but it also concisely described what really matters in life. The other occasion that reminded me of my profound lesson was after the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs. I read a quote from the speech he made to students at Stanford University in 2005, where he pointed out that when you know you are dying, you are released from the things that really don’t matter. As he put it: “all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” So the next time you see me dancing in public, forgive me my clutz-like performance, I’ve probably shed my fear of embarrassment, decided I’m already naked and am dancing to a completely different beat. On the other hand if I am completely naked, please feel free to make a citizen’s arrest—gently.

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