Yesterday was SQL Saturday 517 in Philadelphia. As usual Joey D’Antoni(blog|twitter) and his team put on a great event. I look forward to coming back next year if I am selected to speak. On my way there, at the Molly Pitcher Rest stop where I put money on my E-ZPass, I sent a not particularly unusual tweet for me:
Now if you follow me on twitter you’ve probably seen me tweet that as well as extended forms that usually is a subset of the following.
Do something important today . Find your purpose in your utility to others. This way if today ends up being your last do on this earth, your last thought will be. “Today is a good day to die.”
However, someone that didn’t follow me, but was looking at the #sqlsat517 hashtag saw this and asked someone (who happened to be someone I know) if I was a terrorist. Unfortunately, I arrived late and this person left early. Therefore I could not personally assure this person I was not a terrorist. I’ve reached out through twitter, but this person does not tweet every day. Maybe that means he still actually got an email with my @reply. Regardless, I will do everything in my power to personally address his concerns if he still has them.
That being said, perhaps an extended commentary on the thoughts behind these tweets are in order.
First of all for the record, they are 100% inspired by Worf on Star Trek TNG and DS9. However, it’s evolved into so much more beyond that.
Second, lets talk about “Do something that matters.” Someone once complained that they felt it was depressing to read this because they felt their job was mainly “making rich white guys richer.” Well the point is to do something important, but for you to determine what is important. Maybe the main thing you can say about your job is it pays a lot better than anything else you’re qualified to do. Well maybe you get to mentor someone there, who will leave and help cure cancer. Maybe some customer will indeed achieve greatness indirectly through your company. Maybe you can go home an volunteer in a soup kitchen. Maybe you can convince your boss to give back some contributions to an open source project you use at work. Maybe you will go home and change your kids diaper and play blocks with them. I’m not here to judge what you consider important. I’m not even sure what I consider important. I’m just saying, try to do something important every day. You can decide what is important, and if you need to alter the direction of your life to do more important things.
Third, lets talk about “find your purpose in your utility to others.” I think this is something we as a society are moving away from. People used to sign letters “I remain in your service.” Important people like George Washington who usually wrote to people of a lower station than him. We’ve fallen away from formal letters, but we still send emails that are formal enough to warrant such a heady conclusion. Anyone that knows me knows I am a very independent person. However, I crave being useful. When a blog post by Thomas LaRock lead me to read The Broken American Male by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, I rejected his premise that being a “human doing” is inherently a bad thing. Being a human doing that is overly concerned about money is certainly a bad thing. However, a well balanced human doing that does stuff for their family, their job, and for extra curricular organizations is a desirable thing IMnsHO.
Fourth, lets take a stab “Today is a good day to die.” I’ve never wanted to die. I’ve seen shrinks on occasion for moderate depression, but I’ve never been suicidal. The highest form of life I killed was a pig, which I ate part of. I’ve also slaughtered two chickens and a goat, and recommend all meat eaters do slaughter a mammal at least once in their life. There might be one or two people on this earth I wouldn’t mind seeing in the obituary section of the newspaper (no, not you), but I’d make all normal attempts to save their life if I saw them bleeding or unconscious. So in addition to not wanting to die, I’d rather avoid killing someone except to save the lives of others.
All that being said, we’re all going to die someday, and other than my religious beliefs about the afterlife, the best I can say about the matter is death is the one thing people actually think its a good thing to procrastinate over. As someone who files extensions on April 15th so I can file my taxes October 15th, I consider myself an authority on people opinions of procrastination. Despite our best efforts at procrastination, we will all die eventually. I have a young family now. It would suck for my wife and kids if I died. However, I’ve taken out life insurance to mitigate some of the more tangible losses. When life ends for me it will go on for everyone else. That day might be today, tomorrow or decades from now. Whenever it is, I do know that I’ve lived a fuller life and seen more things than most people that have ever lived on this planet, so it would feel selfish to say I’ve had anything but a good life. Therefore, is it that much a stretch to say today is a good day to die?