Mirror Mirror

I’m putting off reporting on the Easton Arts Trail (it went very well) or anything else I normally talk about again this week. Partly because of continued busy-ness, partly because the self-improvement-related rant below wanted out of my head first.

That Steve Jobs quote that everyone likes. Think about it for more than the kneejerk millisecond that it takes to click ‘like’ under a picture on Facebook.

‘[…] for the past 33 years I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today.”’

What do 99% of people* say when asked what they would want to do on the last day of their life? I’m thinking it’s along the lines of ‘Why, hang out with my family/friends/partner of course.’

So if you’re one of that 99% and you don’t happen to be on holiday when you carry out the mirror test, chances are you will fail it. Unless of course you and your loved ones are unemployed. In which case, well done, you’re apparently living the dream.

Think about why this is your last day too.

Is the world ending? Then chances are whatever you had planned for the day before you were informed of the impending apocalypse is now irrelevant anyway, even if you love your job/life. That patient you were going to save, that new smartphone app you’ve been working on, that research paper you’ve been writing, that dentist’s appointment, what’s the point now? Unless perhaps your research paper is about how to stop a meteor destroying the planet, or whatever is about to happen. Some selfless people might want to keep giving the needy the best final day they can have, but most of us would be doing our own thing. Or maybe, say, in Bristol UK, having a massive street party. With lots of bunting.

Is it your last day because you are terminally ill, and the doctors have given you no more than 24 hours to live? It’s unlikely you’ll have the energy to do much beyond trying to think of some appropriate last words.

Are you about to be executed? You can’t be having much choice how to spend your day, unless you’re in one of those super-plush prisons where the tabloids would have us believe inmates live a life of luxury. Actually, the traditional Dead Man Walking’s choice of indulgent food for their final meal is probably likely to feature on a lot of people’s final day list, which can be an ideal way to live your life on a day-to-day basis if you’re cool with all the ailments related to unhealthy/excessive eating, but that scarcely requires motivational gumf to help you along.

So, it seems living your life as if every day is your last day is only a good idea if you’re either a lettuce-loving workaholic or have extremely low expectations of yourself.

I recently watched a video shared by a friend that posits that a life where work is a necessary evil rather than a passion is ‘absurd’.  This may be the case (although you could just as easily argue that all life is absurd), but this kind of name-calling is plain rude, especially when very little by way of a viable alternative is proposed.

Now, there is much to be said for doing things you love, as the video advocates – however much of them you can fit in your day; if you end up making a living out of such things, great – however, that makes you Very Lucky. Not in an irrational, fatalistic sense of the word. In the sense that anyone who has the right combination of natural abilities, predilections, nurture and opportunities to achieve this kind of life should be grateful for that fact rather than look down on those who do not.

I would argue that eradicating the ‘absurdity’ of most people’s lives would require not only each and every person addressing whichever of the above factors are holding them back, which may or may not be possible for all, but also radical systemic changes (perhaps even a revolution, eh, Russell?). It requires a world where no mundane job needs to be done by a human, and no human needs to work, since not everyone’s passion is going to be something they can monetise.

Labelling ordinary people as losers who should really get off their worker-ant arses and do something wonderful is at best going to inspire a few to do great things and drive a few others to ruin. And/or get the video’s makers that super job in viral advertising they’d really like to spend their final days doing.

So I’m not going to just drop everything and go rock-climbing or swimming under waterfalls like the beautiful people in the video (which has a distinct airline commercial feel to it whenever it’s not clips from cult movies about sticking it to The Man).

I’m pretty sure some of the clips were from The Beach, which if I remember correctly did not end well. Also Fight Club? No day jobs were quit in the making of that story, in fact the main protagonist has several. The Matrix? A film about how humans are exploited by a powerful ruling class and how an intrepid band of rebels take up arms to bring the system down. Am I missing the point – do all these extracts just aim to encourage us to think outside the box? Or did the video’s makers seize upon the cathartic escapism of these movies at the expense of their deeper messages?

I know people who love their jobs but feel that, as a popular French comedian once put it, ‘De l’argent suffirait (money would do). There’s something to be said for working to live rather than living to work – not everyone is cut out for the latter and that’s OK.

Anyway. I’m off to make myself a lovely healthy dinner before doing a few other bits and bobs that would make absolutely no sense if this was my final day; because if I’m not dead tomorrow, I’ll be glad I did them.


*Source: The Top of my Head journal Issue 57.


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