There once was a point in my teenage years where I became fascinated with (and utterly terrified of) the inevitability of death. My fear of the unknown became so great that I briefly refused on any activity that involved the slightest bit of risk. I felt helpless to the fact that impending doom was trailing behind me.
I recall one evening bringing this topic of discussion up to my father, who was quietly perched up on a sofa chair reading his novel. I looked up at him from my homework, and rather grimly said “dad, what’s the point in doing anything? I mean…now we’re here, but soon we’ll be gone, and because of that, I don’t know if there’s any real purpose for me, or anyone for that matter to be here. I don’t want to die, and I feel helpless that I have no control in the matter.” (No surprise in my future liking to absurdism there).
My dad said something in that moment that has resonated with me for many years; and although he may be disappointed to hear this, with all of the holistic health wisdom he preaches upon me, what he said then and there was one of the most memorable moments of my life.
He fixed his glance upon me over his reading glasses, and in a very straightforwardly manner said: “Listen carefully. A person who lives a cowardly life dies a thousand times, but a person who lives bravely only dies once.”
This is one of my favourite quotes, and it forever changed my adolescent thoughts about life and death. If you live your life through fear- fear of doing anything, or trying anything, or feeling like you’ll never make an impact, then you’re living a half-life.
To my surprise, I have never asked my father if this quote was inspired to him by Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar‘ or Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms.’ Perhaps Shakespeare inspired Hemingway, who inspired my father, who in turn, inspired a young mind- as all great writings should.
Here are the two quotes:
“A coward dies a thousand times before his death. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”
– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one’… (The man who first said that) was probably a coward… He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he’s intelligent. He simply doesn’t mention them.”
– Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms