The death of Thomas Duncan, the first American to be diagnosed with Ebola, has sparked a contagious conversation about the disease. Yes, Ebola is deadly. Yes, it is in America. Yes, it is contagious. But, no, you will not get it.
This is no time for ridiculous fear over a mysterious disease. Or is it?
Ebola has struck the population with a fear for our mortality. And I'm starting to think that's good. Let's put it this way: If you were diagnosed with some mysterious illness and your best chance of survival (for some reason) was to do sprints every day, for a half hour, I don't think most of us would have trouble fighting for our life, sweating and chugging along. But knowing you'll die tomorrow makes life so much more meaningful so much more easily. Without a death sentence, though, life seems infinite, we feel invincible. We put off what we all can agree are the best practices and save them for years down the line until we're too damn old to do them.
Ebola won't get you. But if it did, it could give you what you need: a fight.
Some of us understand it better than others.
I kept going over and over this section in Drake's song From Time (featuring Jhene Aiko) this week:
"I want to get back to when I was that kid in the basement.
I want to take it deeper than money, pussy, vacation,
And influence a generation that's lacking impatience."
The idea of "lacking impatience" annoyed me initially. It reeked of boring rap bravado where your sole ambition is to get rich quick or die tryin'. But as I kept it repeating in my headphones, I could understand that he was really referring to the burning desire of achieving your dreams. It is that thought that just can't wait. You don't want it to take time, so you do everything in your power to sprint after it. You need it.
Clerks director Kevin Smith is there. Movies spanning from Chasing Amy to Red State have influenced a generation of filmmakers with the blessing of growing up with the tools Smith wished he had when he made his independent films. You could hear the passion and appreciation and urgency every fan had when they stood up to the mic at this weekend's New York Comic Con Super Week event where Kevin Smith was the guest. They poured their hearts out, each one of them sharing a different facet and favorite film of Smith's career.
And I couldn't help think back to a story Smith told on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast some years ago. I think about it a lot. Smith told Rogan the story of how his father passed away or, as he explained, "died screaming". It wasn't a tragic accident or something terrible where Smith's father was long-suffering but there was something in the moment before death that made him uncomfortable and unwilling to leave this planet. And he died screaming.
And from that, Smith found a renewed passion in life to do everything he ever wanted to accomplish, because we're all going to die one way or another. And you could see the passion in the recent release of his oddball horror movie, Tusk. Birthed from his podcast and a weed-infused conversation over a fake news article, Smith found a new reason to pick up the pen and write a script for a twisted movie about a man who kidnaps another and turns him into a walrus. Just to see what it could look like.
And now, with the money made from Tusk, he plans to make a movie called Moose Jaws. Essentially, Jaws but with a moose.
Kevin Smith is a man doing everything he can and wants with his life, with no regard for criticism.
Okay, there might be a bit of regard for criticism. No one is impervious and that's the point. You need to live anyway.
You could tell Kevin Smith is trying to figure it out for himself and for the rest of us. He opened the show with a hilarious apology in advance. He said after watching the documentary Fed Up, he had realized how terrible he had been to his body by pounding sugary happiness into it that he was six days into quitting sugar, cold turkey. He apologized because he didn't know how emotional the sugar withdrawal would make him while answering questions without the normal food-form of dopamine.
And to hear a man who calls himself Fat Man unapologetically (as an homage to both Batman and his weight) commit to cutting out sugar, you could really feel his burning desire to keep on living.
Life doesn't have to happen all at once. You just need to feel the impatience of taking it seriously as you're having fun. What's the point of living a mediocre life, on the couch, alone? Thoreau said it all those years ago from Walden Pond: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation."
I took an impatient step this past Friday by making plans for the week to come. I had enough of allowing my days to fly by with me questioning what I'm doing. Why not take what I can and attack?
And as I plotted out the baby steps I could take to inch closer to my goals, my mindset switched from not having any idea how to plan it all out to trying to cram it all into my days. It was an odd exercise to see the free time of each day and wonder what I've been doing this whole time before. It's possible I was just scratching my head, mindlessly surfing on the Internet.
And the irony is you need to find a balance between the urgency of achieving your dreams and the incredible challenge of overriding your habits. It's easy to dream your dream life. We all do it. But it's different when you're set in your ways and you dive headfirst into cooking and eating healthy, running twelve miles every day, writing two blog posts for every morning and night, and traveling to Europe on the weekend. Urgency can challenge time but it can't warp it.
There is great power in embracing urgency by just enjoying the process. Work hard and play hard. Know your limits and keep pushing them a bit further each time. Personal development author and speaker Jim Rohn defined success as "nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day." You can boil it down to living deliberately.
What is it you want to achieve with your life? You need to really ask yourself. Right now. You don't want to wait to ask yourself the difficult questions until the day you're unknowingly on your deathbed. Or in a car accident. Or sitting silent in a doctor's office.
It is the sad, beautiful truth that this as we know it will end. All you can do is make something awesome of it while you're here