What on Earth are you doing?

Water Lilly at Bodnant Garden in North Wales (Photo taken by me on 11 August 2010) On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, this may be a question a lot of people are asking themselves because, just as near-death experiences often lead to a renewed appreciation for every day that dawns, it is common for those who unexpectedly lose loved-ones to want to find some way of making their loss serve some wider purpose; and for those fortunate enough to be untouched by such tragedy to wonder whether they are making the most of the time they have. I once saw a documentary programme on self-motivation in which the participants were taken around a graveyard and invited to contemplate how fortunate they were to be alive. I must confess that this would not have worked on me, as I have always been very uncomfortable in such places. However, even though the last 10 years has been an absolute disaster personally-speaking, contemplating what happened 10 years ago – the loss of life and the unending grief of those left behind – helps me to retain some reasonable perspective regarding my personal situation. If and when you know what you want to do with your life (i.e. what your purpose is), it is important to set yourself achievable, incremental, goals. However, it is also important to live in the present; as if each day might be your last (hence the “graveyard therapy” I guess). Are these two things reconcilable? I don’t know. In any case, it has taken me a very long time to find my vocation and, regrettably, it took the breakdown of my marriage for me to have the courage (and freedom) to realise I had not been doing what I really wanted to do for a very long time… Therefore, I say: — To those of you who have been personally affected by the events of 10 years ago – you have my heartfelt sympathy; — To those of you who struggle with feelings of restlessness, aimlessness, and/or depression – I know how you feel; — To those of you who think you have worked it out now – be strong and courageous in pursuing your new goal(s); and — To those of you who have known all along – what do you want; a medal? One of the most thoughtful moments in the film Gladiator (even if inadvertently so) may be the one in which the late Oliver Reed (in his last role) says “Ultimately, we are all dead men”. John Maynard Keynes originally put it slightly better, I think, when he cautioned about taking the long view by saying: “In the long run, we are all dead” (see this excellent piece by Mark Cancellieri). Then of course there is Dead Poets’ Society and its memorable injunction to us all to “Carpe diem” – seize the day! Finally, on a slightly lighter note, I was very privileged to be able to trek to Everest Base Camp in November 2008 (it was however a shame I had to get divorced first); and very impressed when the Trek-leader made us pause and reflect with the words: “The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift; that is why we call it ‘the present’”. I was later amused to find out that he had first heard this quote (albeit from Jung) when watching Kung Fu Panda! Me on the climb to Kala Patthar (5545m) with Mt Everest in the background


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
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8 Responses to What on Earth are you doing?

  1. jpgreenword says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and personal post. May your next 10 years be an absolute pleasure, personally-speaking. On a lighter note, when you mentioned “Ultimately, we are all dead men”, it made me think of a recent “Colbert Report” episode (one of the episodes of this past week). Stephen Colbert did a bit with a very similar theme – the idea that the end of the story is: you die! Sounds grim, but Mr. Colbert makes it funny : )


  2. Donald says:

    I lost a good friend during the WTC attacks, he was a baggage handler here in Australia who had gone on holidays to America. When the holidays were over he decided to send his family to Los Angeles while he stayed back one more day. The next day he boarded one of the planes that hit the towers, thankfully his family survived. Like most of the world that day, I too called for “Justice” … I just never expected the all out “revenge” trip taken by the US Government. They showed me that day that there is not a single trace of Christianity in the American Government. I still like the American people, but their politicians are as evil as Satan’s testicles 😦 🙂


    • Rick_Altman says:

      Thanks for sharing your personal connection with events of that day, Donald. For someone like me that has no such link, it is truly humbling to read. Furthermore, I think I share your view that the war in Iraq was an abominable false flag op.; the failure to think ahead was an act of criminal negligence; and ISAF’s continuing involvement in the corrupt and failed state that is Afghanistan is an unholy mess. Despite all this, I am afraid I am inclined to agree with those that say the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein (even if the end did not justify the means). Furthermore, I challenge you to watch (UK) Channel 4′s new Bin Laden: Shoot to Kill documentary and not conclude that the US was right to go after him in the way they did… I must admit, I was quite shocked by the feeling of righteous indignation that crept over me while watching the film because I am more usually prone to saying stuff like “violence begats violence” and for the violence to stop, someone has to decide not to take revenge (all residents of Jerusalem please take note)…


  3. Donald says:

    I agree, I think Blair and Bush did the right thing in taking out Saddam before he got any stronger, it was obvious to one and all that he was only a murdering tyrant. Killing Bin Laden was also OK but I still fail to understand how a nation that went to the moon and totally destroyed Hitler, ……. took ten years to find Bin Laden, ….. unacceptable!!!! 😦 As for revenge …. yeap, people should keep their hands in their pockets and stop gripping those weapons so tight … might make a difference 🙂


    • Rick_Altman says:

      The only reason it took 10 yrs is because for most of that time they were not looking; they were too bogged-down in trying to get their hands on Iraqi oil and other geo-political games (Obama admits this in the Channel 4 documentary – you should watch it)!


  4. Pingback: Music for 21 December 2012 « Anthropocene Reality

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