What would you actually die for? Have you ever asked yourself that question? So many times in movies we’ve seen this question asked under a romantic light and men of valour lay their lives for their damsels; and in other instances under moments of duress when one feels they must make a stand for what they believe.
On the other end of the spectrum there seems to be another question balancing it which asks, what do you live for? I know from myself these two questions do not have the same answers. Some people can answer both questions effortlessly usually because they have a loved one whom they live and would die for. In the absence of a loved one to keep you going or die for, what is there for the rest of us that has the power to anchor our souls to this life or lay it down for?
A few years ago whilst I was flying out of Nepal, at take-off our airplane struggled. The Tribhuvan International Airport is notorious and I watched NatGeo’s Air Crush Investigation religiously in my youth. I know that most accidents happen at take-off and landing. The plane was struggling to get altitude and it dropped a considerable distance in two quick succession, but finally managed to pull up before we were plastered on the side of the numerous mountains surrounding it. During the second instance of its plummet, I remember wondering if I was at peace with dying. Spiritually I thought yeah, I’m ready to meet God. But a split second later I remembered my Facebook timeline. This is how I later unpacked it: we put all our achievements (or I used to) on our timelines, and I knew that I had not achieved what I was set out to do then. My mind immediately did a one-eighty and I resolved that I was not ready to die. That I would not go down gently into the darkness. The drop felt like it lasted a whole half a minute but it was likely less than ten seconds. As the engines roared at their maximum and lifted us up, it was like it was my personal confirmation that indeed, heaven was not ready for me because I still have stuff to do.
Have you thought of your unique role in this world? The thing that only you were created to do. Does your soul recognise it? You know, that one thing that is inside of you that has nothing to do with besting your neighbour, or colleague. Your contribution. I know mine. I know this is the one because so many things have changed, goals, ideas, ideals, but this one thing has remained. In the beginning it was like any other wish or ambition, except other wishes and ambitions I conquered and it still left me as hungry, and other I didn’t and it never bothered me. It is seared into my brain like “Shire” and “Baggins” were to Sméagol as the way back to his ultimate purpose. That is not to say we only have one all our lives. There can be multiple.
Back to the other end of the spectrum, several activists have over the years self-immolated (that is killed themselves by burning) for reasons ranging from devotion, renouncement, and political protesters. The numbers are actually staggering. Many over the years expressed that freedom and liberty, not only for themselves, were worthy causes for self-sacrifice. This ranges from Buddhist monks, Arab Spring protesters, even a street vendor in Tunisia protesting official harassment of street-side vendors. The view of violence even on self is controversial, and then there are obvious times when this extreme measures of protest seek to take others with as in the case of suicide bombers. Both stand for a cause.
I will confess, before I started thinking about the different reasons that will lead one to self-sacrifice, I was feeling mildly sad because I could not identify a person or cause that would make me take such drastic measures. But now I think I will rather focus on what to live for, and completing my unique contributions I was charged with to the rest of humanity whilst daily I pursue:
“The betterment of myself, to handle disappointment and pain with more grace, to love with less judgment and to give with less expectation.”- The Joburger