In the profoundly moving New York Times essay My Own Life, neurologist and author Oliver Sacks recently revealed that he’s dying of terminal cancer. Referring to himself as “a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions,” Sacks describes a life well lived, “rich in work and love.” He also declares that he’s “not finished with life” and with what time remains, intends to “live in the richest, deepest, most productive way” and that “there is no time for anything inessential.” When it comes to living and dying, we can learn much wisdom from Oliver Sacks.
As I grow older, I increasingly find myself craving simplicity in my life – what foods I eat, how I dress, the interests and activities I pursue and the friendships on which I focus. For me simplicity and authenticity walk hand in hand, two things that we often lose sight of in the daily challenges of modern living. Life is short and I for one would prefer not to waste time (and I have) on the “inessentials” that add no value, including worrying about events and circumstances that I can’t change. Instead, I choose to focus only on what gives my life meaning and purpose. Everything else is chaff.
The following is a favourite quote on living well:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life…” – Henry David Thoreau, from Walden, 1854
Are you wasting time on the inessentials?