Where the birds always sing

Death is so common and yet it manages to startle me every single time. Do you ever get used to the natural process of things? Do you ever get used to the pain one’s absence leaves you with? And if you could, would you want to?

These last days all I hear about is people dying or people getting serious issues - physical or mental. It’s that disruption of the normal-ness that annoys me, too. But what is ever normal? We’re lucky to have normal days. However, this is totally dissonant with our experience as human beings (and with the presentation I have to give on Sunday about stress - talk about irony!). We think we’ll be there tomorrow to finish our conversation with that particular someone, we think we’ll get to hug our partner the next time we’ll see each other, we get really anxious about our future and how this future will turn out to be. Am I gonna make the right choices? Am I gonna marry the right person, am I gonna do the right job, will I ever be happy? Of course we need this potential future to be there, how else would we do anything again otherwise?

But it’s not just that we need it. We’re totally immersed in this safety bubble. We literally forget that our time here is brief. So, so brief. And we can cry all we want to, but it ain’t gonna change a thing (trust me, I’ve tried). Today, a person I value deeply came really close to death, without having any serious health issues before. Death can be so intrusive, so disruptive, so violent. Life after death, too.

I’m afraid to lose the people I love. But I’m afraid I’ll have to, sooner or later. Yalom says the idea of death can save us, but can it save the people we love, too? Ok I know that’s not what Yalom meant, but having lived an unlived life is one thing, having to survive without the ones you love is totally another. And it’s that life that can be scarier for me, than anything else.

I think The Cure have very well articulated what I’m trying to say, in their song “where the birds always sing”.

But the world is neither just nor unjust It's just us trying to feel that there's some sense in it No, the world is neither just nor unjust And though going young So much undone Is a tragedy for everyone It doesn't speak a plan or any secret thing No unseen sign or untold truth in anything... But living on in others, in memories and dreams Is not enough You want everything Another world where the sun always shines And the birds always sing Always sing…

Yes, living on in memories is really, truly not ever going to be enough.

image from "the Guardian"

2551 Saturdays

"There’s a website called 4000Saturdays and, among other things on the site, it contains a life calculator. You enter your birth date, and it calculates how many Saturdays you have lived and how many more you will live (if we take as given that 4000 Saturdays is the average number of Saturdays in a person’s life).

The website tells me I have about 2551 more Saturdays left to enjoy. Oh my God! Today, the day I chose to do this little calculation, is indeed, a Saturday, and a very dull one. I can’t live any more Saturdays like this! Life’s too short, 2551 Saturdays are not that much! I have to do something! So what do I do? I panic."

This is a guest post I did for the New Existentialists blog. Read the rest of it here.

Discuss it on reddit.

What should we think about death?

This is the title of a short Humanist animation about death, afterlife, and living in the here and now, narrated by Stephen Fry. I think it greatly points out various existential ideas in a short amount of time. People try to forget about death most of the time, but this video argues that the finitude of life is what gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. "

Imagine eating an endless cake, where would be the fun in that?,

asks Fry, in the video. Well, I don't know about you but I wouldn't mind a never-ending ice cream. Nonetheless, life is finite, "death is a natural part of life".

Great video. Worths your time, if you're ready to seriously wonder upon how you live your life.

Written & produced by the British Humanist Association, and narrated by Stephen Fry. Animated by Hyebin Lee.

Why do today what you can do tomorrow?

I mean, really. Tomorrow is another great day, waiting there for you to do things. Why bother doing everything today?

Existentialists might argue that life won't be there forever, that tomorrow might never come. With that on mind, I'm seriously asking you, if tomorrow you're not alive and kicking, why spend so many hours today, doing the most boring stuff there is on earth? If someone told you you're going to die soon, would it really matter to you to get this paper done, or would you rather going out with some friends?

The truth is, you're always postponing something. It's either work, or pleasure (among other things). Of course work is important and sometimes it can't be postponed, deadlines are over your head. That doesn't mean that pleasure isn't as important as work though. I'm a person that almost always puts work first, but some day I realized work is never finished and I haven't seen my friends for over a month. You're always not doing something, but it is crucial that you decide what you want your life to be about. Can it be all work? Can it be all play? Which one you'll put off today?

These last days, I seem to procrastinate an awful lot. I used to think that procrastination is a very bad thing that should never happen to creative people, to people “who get the work done”. Then again, I thought to myself, I can’t always do my best and that’s actually very ok. No one can be absolutely efficient all the time. That whole procrastination thing used to make me feel a lot of guilt and anger, but somehow, something changed. I don’t perceive it as so bad now. I do a lot of things while procrastinating, I’m not just sitting idly on my bed. But even if I did, it would be all right, it could even be needed in some circumstances. Sometimes I just want to watch “The Mentalist” all night long. There’s some beauty in giving in, too.

I have been reading a lot about procrastination lately. Different authors, different interpretations of the concept of procrastination and the procrastinator. But unless you know the person who procrastinates, you cannot know why he’s doing so. It’s a too general idea to make out some one-fits-all conclusions. To speak for myself, I don’t even procrastinate for the same reasons every time I do it, so how could I speak for another person?

Then I came across John Perry (Professor Emeritus, Stanford University) and his idea of structured procrastination. I let the man speak for his concept and I quote:

All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.

Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

Structured procrastination. Genius. He also goes as far as to recommend procrastination and he writes:

Non-procrastinators are inevitably ignorant. Suppose you really never put off until tomorrow what you could do today. You'd have to work right up to midnight every night. So you would never be able to watch John Stewart or Stephen Colbert or David Letterman. So you wouldn't know anything about current events and their deeper meanings. That would be irresponsible.

Listen to the man. He is Professor Emeritus of Stanford University. He must know what he’s talking about, right?

You can find more on his concept of structured procrastination here. You can find out his blog entry “Procrastinating Tips: 9 Reasons To Slack Off”, on Huffington Post.

Ellen is always right.


I recently had to write a paper about one of Heidegger’s concepts- whichever I would like. I chose to occupy myself with being-towards-death. Simon Critchley says ( that the basic concept behind the most famous of Heidegger’s works, Being and Time, is simply that

Being is time. Time is limited and so are our lives.

With death, Being reaches its end. Death throws us out of our relationship with the world as we know it.

Nobody can die my own death, nor can I have any death experience besides my own. Death is somewhat my own, it’s mine and mine only. Death is exactly what limits my future possibility,

it’s the possibility of the impossibility, as Heidegger used to say. We are always towards-death and maybe this is what makes the world go round, maybe that’s what gives us any motive to live whatsoever.

In the everydayness we tend to forget all these things, we tend to get lost inside other people and how they live their lives, we tend to live inauthentically. Death gives us an opportunity to jump out of this crazy roller coaster and turn to ourselves and finally ask: is this how I want to live my life? Is this what I want to make of it? So, some kind of freedom is being born. The freedom of choosing a life -my life- and apparently the responsibility that goes along with it.

Death is actually a process of which everything but the last part, belongs to life. I am towards-death and that brings me face to face with my finitude, but with my life too.

We don’t usually talk about death in our everyday lives for some reason. It’s like this bad thing that won’t happen, unless you talk about it. It’s like a common secret, everyone remembers about it but no one particularly wants to bring it to the table. It’s a normal defense mechanism, we have a lot of them us human beings, but with this one I’d advise you to be a bit more careful. Don’t close the door at it, don’t make it an “it”! It’s your life we’re talking about, and we live dyingly - it’s a fact. Maybe by coming to terms with it you’ll live more... fully. With more awareness. Or maybe you’re gonna get depressive, or maybe even both (as happened in my case :) ) Defense mechanisms may be soothing, but they also seriously limit our possibilities.

Meanwhile, no matter how hard we try there is always a specific number of possibilities we can fulfill in life. As long as I live I choose and I cannot choose everything. If, however, I don’t choose, maybe others will do it for me!

Anyway, we should look at death, not for too long though, not anyone can stare directly at either death or the sun, as La Rochefoucauld said once. How easy is it though to accept that we live dyingly? How easy is it to go with the flow of things and their ephemeral nature? How could we manage pain but living passionately at the same time?

Well, to be honest I have no idea. I find myself in great terror in terms of death. I’m just trying to live more fully, more “personally”, being closer to myself and my personal values that is, finding myself always here, but also always in relation to this unbearable towards-death, which actually is embodied in me, whether I like it or not.

by theflickerees