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Your Whole Life Is Borrowed Time

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I can’t remember if this is a real movie plot, or if I just want it to be.

A man with a boring job is on his way to work when his attention is caught by some unexpected detail in his otherwise familiar routine—a peculiar insect, a pattern in the concrete, a cryptic slogan on a t-shirt.

This detail seems extremely significant to him, but he doesn’t know why.

The strange sight wakes him up from the autopilot-mode by which he has been living his life. He is suddenly aware, for the first time, how complex and interesting his local high street is, and he stops to take it in.

Around him pass hundreds of distinctly different people, each a unique individual, driven by some unseen personal motivation. Shops are filled with thousands of trinkets, tools, snacks, and books. Delivery trucks roll past, music plays from somewhere, buildings rise above him. The scene is miraculous to him.

As he surveys the street, he witnesses something surreal: another version of himself is walking away from him, towards his usual bus stop, evidently not having had this same moment of self-awareness. For reasons he is never told, at that moment his life had apparently split in two.

However, his double does not make it onto the bus: as he waits, an air conditioning unit falls from a window above, killing him instantly. In a very unexpected and unstorylike way, his life ends.

The man has no idea what has happened, and never receives an explanation. The authorities never identify the person beneath the air conditioner, and the man never tells anyone what he witnessed because nobody would ever believe it.

There is nothing to do but carry on with his life. But he is a changed man. 

Every morning he is amazed to find another whole day awaiting him. Every meal, every phone call, every greeting from his doorman feels like an undeserved gift, as though he’d mistakenly been given the honeymoon suite at a hotel. He feels grateful even for his problems.

None of the details of his life have changed, except one thing. He now lives with an awareness that he was never truly entitled to be alive; he just happened to be, and still is.

His ability to breathe, see, feel, and make choices now seems to him like an unearned, arbitrary status—one that he may freely enjoy, but which can be revoked at any time without explanation.

He hopes he never loses this sense that his life is essentially a bonus round, consisting entirely of borrowed time, not just from the day of his strange experience, but from the beginning.


Last month, I attended a networking event for entrepreneurs, in Toronto. The host had booked a private room beneath a restaurant in Greektown.

I was early, so I spent some time in a nearby park, then checked out the shops and restaurants on Danforth Avenue. I stopped in front of a church to tie my shoe. I remember being nervous about meeting a bunch of new people.

Of course, it went fine and I had a good time. I had interesting conversations with entrepreneurs in all sorts of spaces: fitness, web development, beard grooming, venture capital. The food was excellent.

The experience was distant enough from my normal routine that, during the event, I was struck by how easily we find ourselves in moments we could not have pictured. For all the certainty we feel when we plan for (or ruminate about) the future, life unfolds in ways that are ultimately unpredictable. We just end up places.

Two weeks after that event, a deranged man with a gun walked down the same stretch of Danforth Avenue and shot fourteen people at random, then shot himself.

I don’t mean to sound dramatic. It wasn’t a close call, at least for me. I’m sure a hundred thousand people walked down that stretch of road in the weeks surrounding the incident. There are people who literally dodged the bullets.

But when I watched videos of eye-witness accounts, including some in front of the church where I tied my shoes and the corner where I nervously loitered, it gave me a vital bit of perspective: I happen to be alive, and there’s no cosmic law entitling me to that status. Being alive is just happenstance, and not one more day of it is guaranteed.

This thought instantly relieved me of any angst over that particular day’s troubles: technical issues on my website, an unexpected major expense, an acute sense that I’m getting old.

Those problems remained, and they are real problems. But they immediately became only relatively important. They lost their sense of absolute importance. In fact, any personal problem I could think of now seemed to be a small, aesthetic complaint about the grand, mysterious gift of being randomly, unfairly alive that day.

This perspective made it easy to tackle the problems I could, and live at peace with the others, all with a breezy sense that this is just a bonus round anyway. Despite the awful news, it was a productive and enjoyable day, and I would like to live all my days that way.

That was a few weeks ago. Not surprisingly, the breezy feeling now comes and goes—too many years of seeing my latest dilemma as absolutely important, rather than just relatively important.

This “I could be dead” perspective isn’t a sentimental thinking exercise. I think it’s a more honest view of our ever-tentative situation, one that respects the impersonal, flippant way in which fate handles our lives. The shooting just forced me to see my day in that way, but a random crime is only one of many possible (and still possible) endings. There are always speeding cars, rare diseases, gas explosions, and treacherous stairwells. And none of these events, when they do happen, are negotiable.

The universe is not at all sentimental—aliveness is always going to be an arbitrary status that can be revoked at any time. No recourse, no due process.

Equally mysterious is that our lives began at all. As my favorite philosopher, Douglas Harding, tried to remind us before he died:

It’s the very last thing, isn’t it, that we feel grateful for: having happened. You know, you needn’t have happened. You needn’t have happened. But you did happen.

And we needn’t still be happening. But we are.

I suppose the trick is to remember that fact even in the throes of our worst moods and toughest dilemmas.

Maybe I’ll get a reminder tattooed on my wrist, for whenever my complaints start to seem absolutely important: This is borrowed time, all of it. Would you rather give it back?


Photo by Cristina Cerda


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Ameen August 13, 2018 at 11:44 pm

We often read and hear people say “You are going to die” as a way to motivate someone to overcome their fears to do something they’ve always wanted to do in their life and stop wasting their time or put their problems into perspective.

But after reading this post, I know realize a more effective message to tell myself and others is that “You are alive”! The amazing fact that I exist and I can observe and experience good or bad things is a much more sobering reminder than the thought that I can die at any moment or any day.

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 9:23 am

Yes! Good point — the aliveness is happening now, but death usually seems distant and abstract. Aliveness is real in a way death will almost never seem real.

Olumide August 29, 2018 at 2:15 am

Memento mori .. came to mind reading this…. beautiful read … first time commenting

Anita August 14, 2018 at 2:29 am

Hi David. I first started reading your blog quite some years ago now. I’ve lapsed for a while as I’ve become extremely involved with a forum but I still dip in, on occasion.

The reason for my giving you all this background information today(of all days), is because I think this is the best thing you’ve written. Hats off! A (very) good read.

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 9:23 am

Well shucks, thanks Anita!

Josie August 14, 2018 at 2:37 am

I mostly read your posts without commenting but this time I just have to mention that this plot reminds me a lot of the movie Another Earth. It got a very different twist but it’s similar in concept.

I really liked what you wrote but at the same time it made me sad, because i find it hard to experience life as a gift. I am very grateful for what I have in life but not necessarily for being alive in the first place.
Your idea for a tattoo is nice by the way! I’m still considering getting a small tattoo of stairs, to remind myself of your “take the stairs” post. I loved that one :)

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 9:32 am

Suffering and difficulty makes it hard to see life as a gift sometimes, but against the perspective of having no experience and no choices, which is preferable? The answer is different for everyone, but the worst than can happen is that we will lose it all, which is going to happen anyway. So we can only look into the condition of living itself and see that fact that we can experience things and make choices as a gift — which experiences we prefer, and which choices we have at our disposal vary, but we always have both (until they’re suddenly gone).

Nicky August 14, 2018 at 2:54 am

I feel privileged to have learned a similar lesson at a young age. I was 13 when I woke up paralysed from the neck down. While in hospital I remember thinking ‘is this it? Is my life over already?’

Fortunately the paralysis was temporary. It lasted a couple of weeks, but it happened on another 10 occasions over the next few years. Some people think this must have been horrendous, but every time I recovered, it was another reminder that we are all on borrowed time.

During the periods where I wasn’t unwell, I did everything. Every opportunity that came my way to experience a new activity – I took it.

At 13 years old I knew that life could be taken away from you at any given moment, so I decided to make every moment count.

During my 20s I didn’t get ill. I travelled, I went to uni, I played rugby in another country, I worked in the Scottish highlands, on a hotel boat in the south of England, I volunteered in Tenerife and spent a few months there working on the dolphin boats, I rode a motorbike around the coast of Australia, I ride the coast of Britain in six days to raise money for the children left orphaned after the Bali bombing (I was there when it happened) and so much more. I did everything I got the opportunity to do.

At 30 I found myself paralysed again. This time they diagnosed me with MS. Turns out all this periods of temporary paralysis in my teens had been MS relapses.

I turned 40 this year. I now have Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and use a wheelchair. I’ve met many women in their mid 20s to mid 30s who have been diagnosed with MS. Many of them are extremely bitter. They feel cheated out of a life they haven’t had chance to live yet.

If only they’d realised that ‘to live’ is not a right any of us have. If they’d known this before they were diagnosed they could have started truly living for the moment and not stuck in the mindset that there’s always another day. There isn’t.

That’s why I think I am not bitter about it. I have no regrets. I’ve lived my life to it’s greatest potential at every possible moment. Being in a wheelchair hasn’t stopped me either. I’m still living an adventure. Still having amazing experiences. Still making every day count. My life is fantastic.

I’ve had 27 years (and counting) of living by the following statement…

“Live every day like it’s your last, because one day it will be.”

Lizzie August 14, 2018 at 5:56 am

Thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed reading your comment (and David’s article of course!). You are inspirational and I hope you continue to enjoy life even with the wheelchair and MS.

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 9:36 am

Wow, it sounds like life brought that perspective crashing down on you early and often. Life really isn’t a right, in the cosmic sense at least, and we get the glimpse we get, with whatever constraints we get. But it can be hard to achieve that perspective without some kind of experience that illustrates the contrast between having it and not having it. Thank you for sharing your story.

Nick August 14, 2018 at 3:18 am

When getting too overwhelmed by troubles, I sometimes walk into a field at night. I lie down and gaze at the stars or clouds until and the alleged troubles are gone.
Coldness takes over, and what remains is the echoing phrase “you’re alive”. I didn’t get it tattooed, but it’s been a welcome message on my phone for the past 15 years.

Thanks for this piece.

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 9:41 am

One of my favorite moments in any book is in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. A boy is playing in a field with his brothers, and there’s a particular moment, where he’s lying in the grass, and for the first time he realizes he’s alive. It’s such a simple realization, but he recognizes its importance right away, and implores himself to never forget it.

Richard Boys August 16, 2018 at 7:24 am

Google Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things”. Very similar.

Kim August 14, 2018 at 3:39 am

Just four days ago, my husband, my two very young grandsons and I were stopped at a red light. The light turned green and we proceeded to enter the intersection. At that moment, I saw a truck come speeding towards the intersection against the red light. The sounds indicated the driver was putting his foot on the gas pedal as he approached the intersection. I had the wherewithall to shout “stop” to my husband and he slammed on the brakes. One or two more seconds and we would’ve been broadsided by a vehicle easily going 40-50 m.p.h.; the results likely either death or serious injury to myself, my husband, my precious grandsons and others in surrounding vehicles. Your article is very timely for me. Those 1-2 seconds made all the difference and has provided a real clarity in my life. I want to hold on to that clarity and let it be my teacher and guide. Perhaps my tatoo reminder will be, “One Mississippi…Two Mississippi,” as a reminder that in a flash our lives can be altered forever. Show up and stay actively present in our lives.

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 9:47 am

Yikes! Glad you are okay. Thankfully, close calls happen much more often than direct hits, and they force us to reflect on the tentativeness of life.

Trevor Sampson August 14, 2018 at 4:01 am

Thank you……….thought provoking to say the very least.

Accidental FIRE August 14, 2018 at 4:12 am

We’ve had two people died in car crashes at my company this year, both were pretty young. I keep trying to use those tragedies to remind myself to be appreciative, and more in the moment each day. But life tends to suck you in the routines and familiar ways of thinking. I don’t want it to be that tragedies have to happen to remind me of the gift of life

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 10:05 am

Definitely. I think we are in the habit of gradually losing the perspective we gain in those moments. Maybe that’s an evolutionary adaptation, I don’t know — it might sometimes serve a creature to be ignorant of how vulnerable it is. But it also doesn’t serve us to get complacent.

Christy August 14, 2018 at 5:33 am

Like you, I experienced “a pivotal moment” which has changed how I live my life. Four years ago my best friend died unexpectedly from the flu. It was the first time I lost someone in my inner circle.

Today I am much more present in ALL of my interactions with people. I also think about my death and frame my relationships with those who are beloved to me differently. I hold the following notion at all times: If I were to die tomorrow, would I die knowing that my relationship with a certain person is in good stead or standing? If my answer to this question is “No,” I have work to do and address the relationship. If my answer to this question is “Yes,” I am content and filled with a sense of gratitude and abundance and I am attentive to the equilibrium in the relationship.

Lastly, the description you wrote at the beginning of this blog entry reminded me of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber. I read this story while attending high school. Perhaps you read it as well?

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 10:09 am

I’m glad to hear you were able to maintain that perspective. Sometimes insights fade if we slip back into our usual patterns. I really like your way of taking responsibility for your end of your relationships.

Laurie Py August 14, 2018 at 7:19 am

Thank you. You’ve reached another human’s spirit and the impact has been made. What more can you want for on this beautiful, borrowed day. : )

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 10:09 am


Ginzo August 14, 2018 at 7:52 am

The experiment continues. We tend to think we (humankind and you individually) are a finished product. We have evolved a most unusual ability – the ability to think about the past, and try to foresee the future. No other animal does this, the animals on the African plains are fully loaded into this ‘moment’. eating, mating, but always on alert for danger.
So, humankind has the newish ability to get out of this ‘moment’; and like any new skill, is still learning how to use it correctly. We get taken over by this. So when we return to the moment, it feels refreshing and familiar (because that’s where we came from).
We have a lot to learn yet. We are a work in progress.

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 10:10 am

I agree with that view — that our ability to imagine the past and future is useful but we’re just at the beginning of learning how to use it in ways that support our well-being.

Dr. McFrugal August 14, 2018 at 8:13 am

I have had a similar experience. December 1, 2016 my wife and I were at Berlin strolling through the beautiful Christmas Markets near Kaiser Wilhelm Church. The Christmas Markets in Germany are so beautiful and festive. Our hotel, the Waldorf Astoria Berlin was just a block away.

One night, around 11 pm, we were startled by an alarm and the PA system speaking in German. I understood a little bit of it, which was instructing us to get out. Luckily it was just a drill. Terror attacks were seemingly more and more commonplace so a lot of major cities in Europe were taking precautions.

Anyway, we carried on with our trip, enjoyed Berlin, toured the rest of Germany and had a fantastic time.

We returned home to the United States on December 16. A few days later, on Dec 19, I had just heard the breaking news that there was a terrorist attack happened at that same Christmas Market we were at. A truck drove into the crowd, killing 12 people.

My wife and I thought: that could have been us. Things like this do bring a different perspective on life. And it does make us feel grateful to be alive, albeit on borrowed time…

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 10:12 am

It’s so hard to believe that it “could have been us” unless there is some element uncannily similar to your own experience. In those instances the “there but for the grace of god goes I” adage starts to seem very true.

Brandon August 14, 2018 at 8:42 am

>> Maybe I’ll get a reminder tattooed on my wrist, for whenever my complaints start to seem absolutely important: This is borrowed time, all of it. Would you rather give it back?

I do not have any tattoos. This whole article was fabulous, this final paragraph was gold and jerked at something inside of me. I may possibly be getting a tattoo now.

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 10:13 am

Give it a bit of time to think about! I am also tattooless, because I insist on reflecting on my tattoo ideas for five or ten years before going ahead with them :)

Steve Mays August 15, 2018 at 10:36 am

I’ve never gotten a tattoo because it takes me 10 minutes to decide on a sandwich at Subway. Commitment challenged. But I frequently ink a word or phrase on my hand. By the end of the day it has faded. Today we’ll go with “I’m alive.”

Michael Alan Gambill August 19, 2018 at 7:59 am

This is a good perspective and practice. To me, tattoos are shallow and short-sighted. More mindless crowd following. The craze seems borne out of society’s pursuit of meaningful identity—like sticking bumper stickers all over the back of a one’s car. Let what really is important be “written” where it really counts. In the heart. Don’t devalue it by turning into a cultural fad.

Scott August 24, 2018 at 9:18 am

My feelings on tattoos are just the opposite of Michael Alan Gambill’s. To be blunt, I feel that his analysis of tattoos is quite shallow.

While some people are certainly just following a trend there are many people for whom tattooing is a deeply personal, if not spiritual experience.

I am one of those people. I am extensively tattooed, and have no intention to stop collecting work until I run out of skin. I started collecting as soon as I was able to legally sign for myself, and it has been an important part of my life ever since. Each and every time I get a new piece, I learn something new about myself because the experience (physiologically, emotionally, etc.) is different every time.

I believe that everyone who has been tattooed, whether for fashion or more personal reasons, learns something about themselves in the process. This could happen during the process of receiving that tattoo, or years down the road when they reflect of the folly or wisdom of their decision.

We need to be cautious about imposing our biases on others – we all choose to use our borrowed time in different ways and for different reasons.

P.S. Tattooing is an ancient art that dates back to Neolithic times, and has been practiced by cultures around the globe. With this in mind, it’s kind of hard to pass the art off as a fad…

Jack August 14, 2018 at 9:31 am

So thought provoking … thank you for writing this. Best, Jack

Simi August 14, 2018 at 9:53 am

I love this post. As my life gets longer, and as I gain more experience (and hopefully wisdom from those experiences), I become more keenly aware of how grateful I am just to be here.

I’m also learning that aging is a beautiful thing, if you’re willing to let it teach you. I still feel very young, but I’ve become much more compassionate over the years and grateful for what I have. I feel like my whole life is a discovery and learning process and hopefully, by the end, I’ll know myself better and maybe pass some of that on to my son and his potential kids, like my mom has passed on her wisdom to me.

I really wish we lived in a society that valued the wisdom that comes with age, the carrying on of those lessons and values from one generation to the next. It seems like we’ve lost that over time, although maybe we’ve gained it by having accumulated wisdom on the internet, if you search for it. I suppose you also have to learn it for yourself, as teachers can’t always teach you what you need to learn.

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 10:17 am

Hi Simi! Aging is beautiful, I agree. I still get antsy about it sometimes though. But when you think about it, the reward of aging is wisdom, and I don’t think there’s anything better out there for us. It seems like western/american culture really plays up youth and future potential, and downplays the value of experience and wisdom. A lot of other cultures seem to get it though.

Daniil August 14, 2018 at 10:24 am

That’s a strong picture and conveys the message. Unfortunately, our brains won’t withstand being that aware every second of our lives)

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 6:40 pm

That’s possible… Can you elaborate on that?

Lew August 14, 2018 at 10:28 am

Appreciating our existence is a difficult task for most as we age. I was lucky to have had open-heart surgery when I was 39 (I’m 64 now). Before the surgery, I was a very angry and bitter man, blaming all my troubles on a brutal and horribly painful childhood that was defined by years of being terrorized and abused by my father. Most people I’ve talked to who went into major surgery had the same perspective I had before the operation, one of peacefulness and calm, since the fact was that if I didn’t wake up I wouldn’t know that I didn’t wake up. My only sadness at the time was for those I might leave behind. What I didn’t expect was what happened after I woke up. Upon regaining full consciousness and then realizing that I had actually survived, that I had MADE IT, there was a tremendous and overwhelming feeling of pure joy! From that moment on, my life has been totally different. It truly was a transcendent experience for me. That moment of pure joy has sustained me through all the ups and downs in my life since then (including a 2nd open heart operation). And, yes, I continue to be a happy person. Your article was one of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of how I gratefully and consciously live my life now. I am so very happy that you were able to experience that transcendence. Thank you for a wonderfully inspirational piece.

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 6:43 pm

It is so fascinating how that dramatic kind of perspective happens when we do brush death. It suggests that for all of our fretting and worrying about what will happen to us, we never really appreciate the reality of death until it seems truly close.

Cameron Esaryk August 14, 2018 at 11:20 am

Awesome and beautiful message! Thank you.

Sharon Hanna August 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

Hi David. Read this article first thing.F irstly, the photo, beautiful as it is, reminds me that hundreds of forest fires are burning around the province (BC)….making the sky smokey and the sun has an orange pallor which affects the colours of flowers, clothing etc. Yesterday I drove a friend to the hospital….he was afraid, at Stage 4 prostate cancer, needing some care; neighbour and best friend has split up with her husband and moved, and one of my children struggles with addiction to opiates. So, trying to see how your article fits in at the moment – and the only thing that I can do is feel what I am feeling – loss, sadness, grief, struggle, and fear. And that is also part of the whole picture. I’d better read “How to Let Go” again ;-)

David Cain August 14, 2018 at 6:45 pm

We are getting the smoke all the way over here in Winnipeg. The sky has been hazy and orange.

We can only feel what we are feeling, yes. But keeping the tentativeness of life in mind when we are making decisions and fielding particular personal worries can make them feel a little more zoomed out — what matters more is that we are here and can still make choices.

Dave Hughes August 14, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Hi David,

Thank you for this article. I enjoy all of your articles, but this is one of your finest. (And the bar is high!) I also love your style of writing.

I don’t have anything moving or profound to add, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your work, and that you are improving my life and many other people’s lives.


David Cain August 14, 2018 at 6:46 pm

Many thanks Dave :)

Abhijeet Kumar August 14, 2018 at 2:59 pm

It is beautiful when I can realize this. The whole notion of what day on the calendar it is, what I am doing tomorrow, or a month from now, disappears. It feels like being born afresh, and walking out (best experience one can have).

It does not stay for me as yet though. But it happens at times.

David Cain August 15, 2018 at 11:19 am

I think insight always comes and goes… our mental conditioning is too strong. But we can find ways to remind ourselves.

Abhijeet Kumar August 21, 2018 at 9:34 pm

True, it is like experiencing sunlight with clear blue sky, and then on several cloudy days, forgetting there is sun always. But once we know that there is sun always, something changes — even if there are clouds, we can now see them as clouds hiding the sun (in this metaphor, clouds is the unconscious/subconscious patterns within us which makes it appear cloudy). I tend to just say within “mind is attacking”, and something changes.

Rajneesh August 15, 2018 at 2:37 am

Hi David ,

This is the best post I have ever read …perspective shifting … I have been practicing mindfulness , being aware of the breath , present moment ,doing a bit of yoga (Pranayam) , but after reading this I am experiencing a profound impact on my thinking …the way I looked at things ..thanks a lot.

David Cain August 15, 2018 at 11:29 am

Thanks Rajneesh. Thinking about life and being aware of the present-moment experiences that make up life are two different mental activities, and we have to do both. Mindfulness helps us keep our perspective when we’re doing the thinking part as well.

Steve Mays August 15, 2018 at 10:05 am

In the third paragraph of your post you make reference to “high street” and in the second paragraph “a cryptic slogan on a t-shirt.”

I read your post sitting outside a coffee shop on High Street (Jefferson City, MO) while wearing a T-shirt reading EQUANIMITY (see above).

Not sure how you did this or why but… good trick.

David Cain August 15, 2018 at 11:20 am

Haha, excellent coincidences… I was using high street in the general sense https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Street

a.krmlks August 15, 2018 at 4:58 pm

You just nailed it :)

Anna Bardon August 16, 2018 at 12:46 am

Hi David, love your article as usual.

Can you write an article one day specifically on age and getting older? My fortieth year is approaching fast.


David Cain August 18, 2018 at 10:25 am

I did this piece a few years ago:


Patrick Tahiti August 16, 2018 at 1:31 am

“I am living now”, rather than “I may be dead tomorrow”. The two so different faces of the coin.
Is it that to “know” my insignificance or undeservedness (“borrowed time”), makes life even more extraordinary ? … I think yes even more after reading your latest masterpiece.
Maybe we should not cling to the belief that we are there for a reason and have a purpose, and some god is watching upon us, and just realise that we are the result of the throwing of the genetic dices, and enjoy the complimentary ride.

Esther August 16, 2018 at 4:42 am

high David

I’ve been reading your articles for some time now but I have never commented but after reading this one I couldn’t help but remember another article you posted early this year; “gratitude comes from noticing your life, not from thinking about it”.
this came in to my mail box when I needed such a message the most and there you were giving me something to hold on to and here you are again with another thought provoking masterpiece of the way to look at life.
thanks very much David keep it up.

David Cain August 18, 2018 at 10:27 am

Hi Esther. Glad you broke your silence! Welcome to the comment section.

There are definite themes emerging in this blog as it goes on. It’s interesting for me too look at the archives and see what was on my mind at different times over the years. Right now, definitely an appreciation for the contingent nature of life.

Anne August 16, 2018 at 9:37 am

I was looking at an art quilt at the weekend. It was called “Carpe diem”. One of the sayings that the maker had embroidered onto her work was the very simple “You think you have time”. That hit hard, and I’ve been reflecting on it since, so this is a well-timed article.

David Cain August 18, 2018 at 10:28 am

Yeah that’s a poke in the ribs. We always think we “have” time, but we never do. I touched on that here:


Susan Srigley August 16, 2018 at 5:10 pm

Hi David,
When your posts come up on facebook I never read them on my phone. My ritual is always to open the link, airdrop it to my desktop, and when I have time, and a cup of tea or a glass of wine, I sit down and savour them. You always get me thinking (and trying stuff, your experiment with veganism convinced me to try the same for two months).
I teach courses at my University on death and dying, and one of the first things I talk about with my students is that there is no “natural” time for death, despite the fact that we all have expectations that “normally” we will live till we are old. Then when people die young, everyone describes it as tragic, as if that isn’t supposed to happen. I’m not saying it isn’t sad and terrible, but what I want them to notice is the assumption about life and death. We are mortal. And that means we die, at any time. Your reflection really speaks to this in a unique way and I appreciate the positive slant towards focusing on the gift of aliveness, precarious as it may be. I will get my students to read it. Thank you for sharing your wise musings, Susan

David Cain August 18, 2018 at 10:23 am

It is really hard to shake the idea that we “get” about 70-80 years to live, and any deviation is unnatural or tragic. When I think about my future I am constantly taking for granted that there’s a certain number of years left. Anyway, I hope this piece can make your students contemplate their own deaths in a healthy way :)

Tara August 16, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Thank you for this great reminder about the impermanence of life. We have the illusion that people should only die in old age, but death can come at any time. Having had two pets die suddenly of illness at a youngish age has really brought that home to me, so I try to savour those wonderful moments of feeling alive intensely. And when something really touches my heart or happens fortuitously, I whisper, Thank you. I tell my husband and my dog every day that I love them, you never know when it will be the last time.

David Cain August 18, 2018 at 10:24 am

That’s the thing about last times: most of the time you don’t know it’s the last time!

Lucy August 18, 2018 at 10:11 am

Thank you, David :0).

As Pooh said, “When yesterday was tomorrow, that was too much day for me!”

Your thoughts touched me deeply!

David Cain August 18, 2018 at 10:32 am

Pooh is so wise

Alejo August 19, 2018 at 12:36 am

David, this was one of the most poetic pieces of yours yet. Definitely one of my favorites, my eyes literally got bigger after wrote about the 14 people killed. We are on borrlowed time indeed. Thank you for the reminder!

Xrayvsn August 21, 2018 at 11:01 am

So eloquently put that we really are living on borrowed time and we have no idea when payment is due.

It is crazy how one small thing can set a chain of events that either takes you out of harms way or puts you in it. If the meeting for you happened to be the day of the shooting this may have had a different ending, but some reason that meeting for you was scheduled correctly.

It brings to life the “If A butterfly flaps its wings…”

Bob S August 24, 2018 at 7:32 am

An interesting article for sure. The notion of savoring every second before the curtain falls is, I suppose, a healthy approach, as opposed to moving through life in a robotic fashion. However, I have issues with this article on several points. There is no mention God, a divine plan or consequences for actions. I don’t know the author’s religious convictions, if any, or his spirituality. As a RC Christian, I believe in an afterlife where you are judged for your actions in this life. Savoring every experience can easily lead to a hedonistic lifestyle that only exists to satisfy the urgent needs for the next experiential “fix”. This is hardly a noble way to live. Furthermore, because of my religious beliefs, I don’t believe I happened by accident. I hold that my existence was preordained by God for a specific purpose (although that purpose may be hidden from our clarity of understanding even for the entirety of our lives). Just my thoughts.

Jeff August 24, 2018 at 3:40 pm

I have no idea of the authors religious beliefs either. For me, it is one of the strengths of this blog/website. The articles are about becoming a better you. About being more reflective and introspective.

I’m an atheist. The next person might be a Buddhist or Muslim. The website doesn’t seem to support or oppress any specific set of beliefs. It simply sheds light on internal growth.

If being the best rc christian (I’m not sure what rc is) … then I would think that would play a part in living your life to the fullest.

For those of us who are content with this life being all there is, a reminder to LIVE now is an important lesson.

Max Matheson August 24, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Thanks for writing this, David. I appreciate these little reminders that seem to slip by as our little life issues dominate our consciousness day by day. That quote from Harding is great, a nice depersonalizing way to view things.

Thank you again for your thoughts!

Cindy August 27, 2018 at 12:47 pm

This reminds me of a scene from the BBC show, Peaky Blinders. A character is seconds away from death and then spared. Afterwards she says something along the lines of ‘I was dead and then I was saved, so everything from now on is extra. What I didn’t realize is that when you’re dead already, you’re free.’ I am still searching for a way to turn this sentiment into a tattoo haha, because I think it’s a great way to look at life!

Marcela August 28, 2018 at 6:19 pm

I was meant to read this today. Humbling. What a gift! Thank you, David.

Sofia-Jeanne August 29, 2018 at 2:26 pm

That’s the movie Joe Versus the Volcano! He, however, goes on to change his entire life.

LD August 31, 2018 at 6:08 am

Thank you – you have articulated an experience so close to one I had two years ago, and how I have felt ever since. The feeling does last, because your habits change permanently as a result of what you’ve learned – habits like what your first thought is on waking, or the language you use (never again will I say “this is a complete nightmare” about something that really isn’t a big deal). I only wish this awareness could come without others’ suffering, but that’s often how we learn how incredible it is that we are still here.

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