Archived Story

Live a meaningful life this year

Published 11:04am Saturday, December 22, 2012

According to the National Safety Council, your odds of dying are 1 in 1.

If that’s not a statistic that will wake you up on a Saturday morning, I don’t know what is.

How we leave this world is largely a matter of chance, and right now Americans have a 1 in 6 chance of dying of heart disease.

Cancer is 1 in 7.

Stroke is 1 in 29.

Your odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident are 1 in 98.

Getting killed by a fall is 1 in 163.

Riding a motorcycle is 1 in 761.

Drowning is a 1 in 1,103 chance.

Exposure to smoke, fire or flames is 1 in 1,344.

Dying on a bicycle is 1 in 4,381.

And the odds of being killed by a firearm discharge is 1 in 6,609.

Compared to heart disease, cancer, stroke and motor vehicle accidents, firearm deaths are really good odds.

Yet this week we’re all talking about gun control, and I haven’t heard nearly as much about diet control, which could reduce the first, second and third highest risks of dying.

For some reason, people are typically afraid of the wrong thing. Dying is certainly high on the list of what people fear.

But here’s what I think we should be most afraid of: living a meaningless, inconsequential life, no matter how long it is or what ends it.

Instead, I think we should all try to do what we can to live meaningful, important lives, even at the risk of great failure. A quiet, safe, do-nothing life limited by fear and anxiety seems to me to be very risky.

Instead, I hope we all try to help build our community, try to improve the lives of others, help preserve our earth, to influence the direction of popular opinion to do what’s right … even though all those behaviors are somewhat risky because they involve standing up and taking action.

Let’s look at it another way: fast forward to your death bed (remember there’s a 1 in 1 chance that you’ll be there at some point). In your last moments on this earth, will you be grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given and have taken, for the things you’ve achieved and helped others achieve, or will you be bitter or regretful because of what you didn’t do? A hundred years after you die, will the world even know you existed?

Tuesday is Christmas Day.

It’s not about stress, or at least it shouldn’t be.

It’s not necessarily about giving presents or spending time with family.

It’s about recognizing a very meaningful life.

It’s a holiday dedicated to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, about 2,000 years and 6,500 miles from where we are right now.

Whether you are Christian or not, there’s no doubt that Jesus led a meaningful life. In his 35 years on this earth, Jesus managed to touch and shape and change our entire world for almost a hundred generations, mostly for the better. (We’ll just skip over the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition for now.)

If you are Christian, and even if you’re not, I’d like to make you a somewhat clichéd challenge this year.

The slogan “What would Jesus do?” is typically asked on a small scale, focused on specific events or actions.

This year, let’s mark Jesus’ birth by thinking big, by taking his example and living a more meaningful life, reaching out and helping others, working to build community and doing what’s right.

There’s another cliché that speaks to me: Life ain’t no dress rehearsal. We each are given one life, and the chances of it ending are 100 percent. We should all make the most of it.

To live any other way is risky, indeed.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.

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