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Making Peace with Time

"Death is very likely the single best invention of life."

We don't know what Steve Jobs' final words were. But after his recent passing, the world was quickly acquainted with his commencement speech at Stanford, in which he transparently described his own diagnosis of cancer and the place death had in his thinking. "Remembering that you are going to die," he told students, "is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Jobs knew in a way that I do not the difference between facing death as a "purely intellectual construct" and the unflinching, unyielding reality of the impending end of one's own life. Yet despite the difference, over the past decade I have often taken seasons of my life to reflect on my demise, to remember that my relatively healthy body, having now been in the world for some 29 years, will someday return to the dust from which we have all been made.

There was that time, for instance, that I turned 25 and went through what I called a "third-life crisis." I joked about it publicly, but the struggle was no less real for it. I spent the early mornings examining where I had gripped the world, afraid to lose it even though it would never be mine. "What does a man profit if he gains the world but loses his soul?" Reflecting on my mortality brought the question into sharp relief.

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