[Applied Psychology] Understanding Our Mortality

There’s a poignant moment in a video about Smiley, an aging golden retriever, where after telling the audience about how he’s growing older, Smiley’s owner asks her son if the dog will live forever, and he naively responds yes. Digitally, perhaps. Smiley in some large way reminds me of my childhood dog Patrick, quickly becoming the accidental mascot of this section, and though this was something I learned long after he’d passed, Patrick taught me the value of morality.

I took this photo in January 2005 with a webcam when Patrick was 12 years old.

There might be other photos or even video of him after this, but for the last 12 years, this has been the last picture I have of Patrick. He passed two months later right around Saint Patrick’s Day. I was in college, and despite being so thoroughly educated, formally, I’d never really been educated about death or mortality in a corporeal sense. The people that had died were people I’d heard about, not someone I’d been close to like my surrogate little brother. Now that time has passed and I’ve left my shelters and biases, I’ve learned more about the fragility of mortality. Here today, gone tomorrow.

This has been rather heavy, so here’s a lighter example: let’s say you’re in a social circle of either classmates, colleagues, or even routine bus riders. One day, one of these people announces that they are leaving by their own choosing for better opportunities. Everyone’s happy. There are countdowns, celebrations, and this is where the real conversations happen. Everyone’s willing to express their true feelings of the group to someone leaving it.

What happens when that individual doesn’t leave by choice? Regret sinks in. Maybe you wanted to have that conversation about that topic you were interested in or maybe you wanted to express some deep secret? The what-ifs. The shoulda-woulda-coulda game.

That’s part of why I’ve adopted an attitude of living without regrets. Spend another minute with that certain someone that warms your heart. Ask that question you’re burning to learn. Start that conversation you’re scared to finish. You’ll probably get another chance, but why not get it out of the way now? That dialogue might lead to some pretty rad revelations.

I can’t go back in time and pet Patrick on the head and reassure him that he’s a good boy. I can’t tell the me twelve years younger, better fifteen or twenty yet, to spend more time with him. That’s OK. When I see other dogs that remind me of Patrick, that’s when I can time travel back, if only for a split second before the present and the non-Patrick-consistencies of this non-Patrick settles in.

It’s hard to think about mortality and why we often shy away from expressing these thoughts. Everything should be as it is, infinite, in a vast unchanging universe of warm positivity. We should be able to meet our idols over coffee and ask them our idle questions.

We can’t. So live it now.

My big goal is to write. My important goal is to write "The Story." My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame a fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. Let's strive to be better everyday. (Avatar)