Countdown to dead

I came across Kevin Kelly’s post on his “countdown to dead” and found it intriguing to have a daily reminder of my impermanence. Contemplating one’s own death is part of the Buddhist tradition (among others), and seeks to heighten one’s awareness of the present moment and (one hopes) leads you to make the best use of the time you have left.

I added this to my computer’s dashboard a few days ago, and glance at it every once in a while. Today it struck me that when I started the last digit was a 6, and now it’s a 1, and in just two days, the “61” on the end will turn into a 59. And the number decreases every day no matter what. 12761 looks like a big number, but the relentless and unstoppable subtraction is much more provoking than I thought it would be.

What did I do with the last 5 days? Did I do anything of lasting importance? Enhance friendships? Give to others to enhance their lives? Create something that will outlast me?

This counter has really just been a reminder of The Buddha’s Five Remembrances (via Thich Nhat Hanh):

  • I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
  • I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.
  • I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
  • All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
  • My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

Remembering those things makes all the little things that sometimes bother me appear inconsequential, and makes the truly important things loom large.

Try it …