“there is no cure… you have 1 week to live.”
Now if the doctor tells you this at your next check-up, would it make you feel better if you had 2 weeks? A month, a year? What about 2 years?
3? 4? 5?
Not trying to revisit the Sorites Paradox from philosophy 101 but it seems to me that there is no phenomenological difference between having another 2 weeks or another 80 years. We are never guaranteed a future in any sense of the word, yet we are all accustomed to thinking about the “future”. The only reason for that is because we have to – we diet and exercise to look better in the future, we work our asses off to earn our next vacation also in the future – so long as our lives are governed by the principle of causality, this is how we must think in order to make sense of day to day actions and micro-actions.
There is a sense of inconsistency in the contradictions we make between how we behave and what we know. The really important fact is that most people hide from their own death – they literally turn around when they see it and say “I’m not thinking about it.” And that is the delusion. A delusion I also find myself living in. Sometimes. What a lot of them don’t realise is that EVEN IF they are lucky enough to go 100 years without dying, they will eventually have to face their own death. Once they do, they will be shattered. Everyone is shattered when they are told they are going to die soon. The point then, is that once you truly know you are going to die, it tears away the illusion of life.
By illusion of life I mean what a person immersed in day-to-day activities thinks about – money, jobs, the future, pleasure, pain. If you ask someone oblivious to death what life is, they will tell you about those distractions. They will think about “the future” and think “if I do this now, how will this lead me to where I want to go?” That feels intuitive, but once you are presented with a set of affairs that forces you to realise that that is nothing but a delusion, you don’t even have the option to think that life. If you are diagnosed with cancer, you don’t get to think like that any more. And then you realise that was always the case. All you ever had is the present. There is no past, nor future. The past is nothing but a memory experienced in the present; the future is nothing but a feeble, and often cynical, imagined set of affairs… also in the present.
Perhaps to even begin, you have to essentially experience a level of suffering that is so intense that it shatters the illusions of the way you used to live. Once you suffer enough, and are presented with a state of affairs you can’t control – e.g. You are going to die, soon, there is nothing you can do about it, you might start to appreciate the present in its truest form. Eat that cake.