My surprising inspiration (death!)

My friend and artist Teresa Brazen ran an interesting project, called “What moves you?”  She asked various people  what gets them going. Here’s what I wrote:

I know this sounds morbidly strange but when I’m bored or frustrated or out of sorts, thinking about dying has a surprisingly positive effect on me. When I realize I will die someday, and try to visualize it, imagining the notion this will all be over, my senses vibrate in a way I can’t explain. It’s a crapshoot to be alive at all, and here I am, born at a time and place where I have a million choices, I can read any book, see any movie, visit any art, make, do and feel more things than 99% of all humans that have ever lived, it’s all there waiting for me, right NOW. Confronting the notion of the end of my own life, as far away as I’d like that to be, is one of my most reliable ways to feel moved in the present. To sit and watch TV or wallow in my own hubristic complaints seems unbelievably dumb. And I don’t like to feel dumb.

Kafka wrote “The meaning of life is that it ends”. Every one of my choices matter because I won’t have them forever.  Jim Morrision said “I want to get my kicks in before the whole shithouse goes up in flames” and Horace wrote “Carpe Diem!” If I’m not getting what I want out of my life while I’m alive, or giving to those in need or who I care about before I kick the bucket, when the fuck do I expect to do it?

So there it is. I confess, I’m moved by the idea of my own death. I want to die regret free and the thought of confronting my last moments and having to justify being bored with my own life to myself as  I die compels me to make, and passionately appreciate, the choices I make in the now.

What moves you? Leave a comment. If I’m moved by what moves you, I promise I’ll reply :)

6 Responses to “My surprising inspiration (death!)”

  1. Kevin Morrill

    One of my favorite encounters was getting to meet Paul Rusesabagina, the man depicted in Hotel Rwanda. Someone with us asked how he had the courage to do what he did. He said bluntly, “I knew I was going to die.” And stopped short for a second. He went on to explain he felt his death was imminent and his only choice was whether to do what he thought was righteous.

  2. Scott Berkun

    I’m not sure I actually want to believe I’m going to die – What Rusesabagina went through isn’t something I’d want to experience. But it does seem wise to have an idea of death, and how, when you’re dying, you’d look back on what you’d done. Not sure it works for anyone else, but it definitely works for me.

  3. Thai Nguyen


    Your observation is spot-on. It’s just too easy, sometimes, for most of us to lose that sense of perspective and of being in the present. Is it a wonder, then, that we can become unmotivated and uninspired? Two years ago, after dealing with IT burnout, I decided to bicycle 5,000 miles across the country over the course of a summer. Not only did the experience rejuvenate me, but it forced me to live in the moment for four months. I can’t tell you how much that helped me gain inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose. Highly recommended!

  4. Ricardo Patrocínio

    Great post Scott, it really is about the journey, not the end result. My advice is to focus on making every day as enjoyable as possible, and try always to give your best, so you can feel your life as meaning and you feel accomplished. And don’t feel bad when sometimes you are not in the mood for giving your best.

    I make Horace my own words, Carpe Diem!

  5. Livia Labate

    For a procrastinator like me, this is one of the few things that can help me get unstuck. Specially when I am feeling really stuck. Making myself consciously consider death propels me to shape life in a way I cannot when I am approaching it from a different angle. I wish I could translate this into other things; it’s such an “actionable emotion” (if there is such a word) that I wish I knew how to harness the same power for other (smaller but no less important) things.

  6. Linda Siniard

    Well now, Scott, after reading your birthday post from yesterday, this one was another unexpected and quite pleasant surprise. I study thanatology (the study of dying, death, and bereavement) in my PhD program. There’s a lot to be said about death. No, seriously, goodreads alone posts over 3000 quotes. You picked some good ones here.

    Your last paragraph in this post, “So there it is…” is priceless – no regrets.


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