Authenticity: Death is Useful

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.

Ivan here. 

It’s hard to diagnose your life as you’re living it. 

Only afterwards do you realize that something was wrong, that the life you were living wasn’t healthy or what you wanted. Sometimes, you realize far too late. Propelled by your own momentum, there’s no turning back to set things right again. 

Which is why death, or rather a healthy awareness of death, can be useful in helping you focus on life. 

A few years ago, I remember flying from Toronto to Montreal on a business trip. It was a particularly frigid January and the plane had to land in Quebec in the midst of a snowstorm. 

The turbulence was unreal. Unlike anything I’d experienced before. The plane shook violently and lost altitude without warning. The wings creaked as if they were about to be torn off. At one point, two overhead compartments flew open. The cabin, which consisted mainly of  early morning business commuters and travel veterans, gasped audibly as several pieces of luggage came tumbling down on their heads. 

The only thing I could think of during that terrifying moment was: 

Not in this suit. Not with these people. 

I imagined them fishing my frozen body from the fuselage at the bottom of Lake Ontario. A carbon copy of everyone else. I pictured a gloomy government worker sitting in a cubicle somewhere in New Hampshire, shredding my U.S. immigration paperwork. I thought about Jennie. A six year relationship. All of it spent apart. 

What a waste. 


Fast forward to a few months ago. I was on a flight back to LA from Taipei visiting family when the plane hit a patch of heavy turbulence. It wasn’t as bad as the previous time, but it was rough enough to remind me of that Montreal flight. 

And I thought: 

If this is it, then fine. Couldn’t have been avoided, I guess.

I had John Steinbeck on my Kindle and he was traveling across America with his dog Charley. As the plane shook, I kept on reading. 

What I’m trying to say is:

Death centers you. It lets you know whether you’re doing the right thing. 

PS: Montreal is a lovely city. You should definitely visit sometime.