Though my best writing is often not found in the form of blogs that provide mandates on easy behavioral changes—meaning articles like “how to transform your life in 7 easy steps” or “how to spice up your marriage in 3 simple ways,” I came across a very moving article that suggests a thought and behavioral experiment designed to encourage people to live in the moment.
The author of that article, Keith Ablow, has been in the news lately and not in a good way. You may remember that he did more than simply raise eyebrows when he made insensitive and inappropriate comments regarding “Dancing With The Stars” contestant Chaz Bono. Before I go on, let me be clear. I do not support Dr. Ablow’s comments about this topic and found them offensive and just plain wrong on every conceivable level. See this article by my colleague Diane Ehrensaft, who refutes Ablow’s comments.
In the spirit of not throwing the baby out with the bath water, however, Ablow’s article, Why Denying Death Means Denying Life, points out the ways that the fear of death keeps us from actually living. He says:
“I think we should do everything we can to defeat the denial of death, because it is only when we feel how exquisitely mortal we really are that we can hope to live as fully as we might.
I was partly stripped of my denial by going to medical school. I saw lots of very young people get very ominous diagnoses, completely out of the blue. I saw people brought to the ER, who had seemed to be in perfectly good health, who collapsed and died playing a game of football, or jogging or shopping for groceries. And I often wondered whether they had done anything at all in the last month that they would have wanted to do, for sure, if they had known it would be their last month.”
He goes on to talk about telling people you love them and why. He promotes apologies and giving to charity. Basically he says, if you knew that you had a few weeks to live, what would you want to do to feel like you gave the most to your relationships and take care of the people and causes that you love?
I can’t argue with that. And as I have said before, for better or worse, physicians have a unique window into the randomness of life and death and what this means for all of us.
It was a hard decision to further publicize Ablow given what he said about Chaz Bono. Ironically, though, the decision to mention his article illustrates what he implies in his piece about death and living more mindfully. Just because someone does something hurtful or says something we don’t agree with does not make them inherently bad. People are complicated. I personally don’t know anyone who has the exact same views as myself. This is how it should be. Different ideas make life interesting. If there were not discrepant views, most of us writers would not have anything to say! Additionally, relationships would be pretty boring if it seemed others had the exact same mindset. I would be uninterested if my husband or my friends felt the same way I do about issues that matter to me.
More importantly, however, is the value of forgiveness. People hurt us intentionally and unintentionally. While we need to correct people who have views that can be divisive and ill informed, it does not mean we need to wipe them out of consciousness. Relationships don’t last long if we kill off those who have hurt us. Since relationships are what make life meaningful, we benefit most when we tolerate the idea that people we love are capable of both good and bad.