Playing with Death

Plan to live forever but act as if you'll die tomorrow

It's playtime! Welcome to the playpen where I share my insights and ideas on the theme of play. This is an experiment on building a kindergarten for adults - to invoke and foster the spirit of play like a child while shouldering the responsibilities of adulthood. Subscribe and join me, let's play! If you want to unsubscribe, head down below.

Midweek Blues? Well, what if your perception of time stretches beyond a week, beyond a year, beyond even a century? For most of us, the concept of a century is the maximum extent of human life. Though the average lifespan today is approximately 70, even less than a century.

That's why Daniel Bustamante's question is intriguing.

How do you hope to be remembered in two hundred years?

If you're familiar with the concept of cathedral thinking, you'll know what Daniel and Jamie Russo are on to. If not, their collaborative essay on Cathedral Thinking is a great start.

I've always played with the number 3 - 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, 3 years. That's how I've planned my tasks and projects. This has helped me plan well and execute easily. But when COVID struck, I asked myself a question similar to what Daniel poses.

What do you want to leave behind if you were to die today?

At first, I scrambled. Being a digital native, I first gathered my digital resources - content, account details, passwords, etc. Then I consolidated my financial assets for easy divestment. Lastly, I figured out the old dusty paperwork for assets like land, houses, metal, etc.

That was easy. But then came the difficult part - my intellectual legacy. I've been a knowledge seeker as far back as I can remember. By the time I hit 13, I was already engrossed in the works of Freud and Jung. Enough to frustrate all the therapists I was taken to. Yes, I was a rebellious brat who questioned the world and its systems of oppression... oops I mean education and thus had to be in therapy.

I've since collected a wealth of experiences and insights, which would be valuable to every rebellious adolescent or adult today. I'd read somewhere that before you start writing, you should first live a life worth writing about. I always held this to be true especially since I agree that all writing is in essence auto-biographical.

As I sat down with the hundreds of little notebooks I've scribbled over the years, I had an epiphany. I realized I wanted to leave behind nothing. I wanted to destroy it all and leave no trace. I wanted those that seek, to search with the same rabid hunger that drove me this far.

I want to leave behind nothing.

This is the age of abundance. Information is all around. Knowledge is so easy to access that organization is now the challenge. Wisdom, however, is as rare as it has always been since the dawn of time. Or maybe more so.

I believe that abundance is as dangerous as scarcity. Many of us are in a state of high-calorie malnutrition even in developed countries where abundance is the norm. Psychedelics which helped humans reach states of higher consciousness as a rite of passage from boy to man are now reducing many to states of depravity and desolation. Because of the abundant availability of any substance. I fear the same with knowledge.

So should I add to the overload of information out there or not? I still don't have a conclusive answer. Meanwhile, I'm writing regularly to share the context through which I play with this dilemma.

On deeper contemplation of Daniel's question and the vivid examples of gorgeous old cathedrals he shares, I conclude thus. I want to destroy my life's work and start afresh. I want to destroy my identity and image and leave nothing behind, not even my spawn. I want to destroy my hubris to create something that will stand the test of time and beyond my lifetime.

I want to live by nature's seasons and die by them.

On the note of death, here's today's game.

Gameplay

Every day I play a new game based on the thoughts I just shared above. Join me or concoct your own game. No score, no prize, just start!

Imagine you're dead. Write a letter to each of your loved ones from beyond the grave. In keeping with the spirit of Daniel's question, let's set the timeline for 200 years. Your loved ones would not be alive, so who will you write to and what will you write about? Think it over. 😈 It’s quite a game.

Roleplay

Every day I encourage my imagination to choose a new identity and enact that character - either think, talk, or walk like him/her in my daily activity.

I've missed sharing my daily roleplay since the last few issues, so here goes a big one. What if you were God? Today I've been strutting around imagining I'm a God. Unlike most of the world, Indians are afforded the opportunity to select from around 330 million of them. Talk about abundance. I didn't try hard to choose, my name translates into God of Seasons - Spring. So it's been easy to enact and live up to - walking around and interacting with an effervescent and exuberant mood. But to introduce the next section down below, I’m going to introduce you to the Indian God of Death - Yama (in a hastily traced sketch). Note the soft compassionate expression.

Game Over

Every game has to end, and so does life. Imagine a new way to die every day. Don't worry, I'll bring you back to life with my magic incantations.

This is a new section and I'm going to imagine a new way to die every day until I actually die or run out of ways to. I've studied the Samurai philosophy in-depth for years and they meditate on the various ways they will meet the end. Considering their occupation and ideology, the end would most likely be gruesome. I've practiced the same and am quite comfortable with any of the 'Final Destination'esque finishes. That's probably why contemplating death by COVID was a breeze.

Leave a comment

But today I'm going to stick to a very likely end - the cardiac arrest. Probably because my uncle died thus just before COVID struck and I remember seeing his body lying limp on a chair. Maybe this is all too macabre for you to read, let alone imagine. Which is why you should watch 'Dick Johnson is Dead'. Thanks to Sumedh Phadke for finding this gem of a documentary. We can play with the idea of death and not just fear, avoid, and abhor it.

Before I end, I want to applaud Daniel and Jamie for their passionate efforts at reviving Cathedral Thinking. When I look back through world history, most of the temples, monuments, and tombs have been built over hundreds of years. Why is this sort of sustained and selfless passion reserved only for the infinite aka God? What else deserves as much dedication?

Plan with infinite thinking but act with immediate urgency.
Plan as if you'll live forever but act as if you'll die tomorrow.

Until tomorrow then. Cheerio!