21st Jun, 20
“The realisation that life is short…”
Is there a more important life lesson than this?
Jessica Gallier was 26 years of age and had recently become a mother when she received news of the death of her father. He had taken his own life. Her story was told in an article in the Daily Telegraph, Monday 6th June 2020.
“Dad was a carpenter who’d always dreamt of becoming a chef. As a child, we’d cook Sunday dinner together (he made the best gravy!), and he’d talk about wanting to retrain. Instead, he died, aged 55, having never achieved his dreams. Knowing this, something in my head clicked and I began stripping my life back to the bone. Thought processes and behaviours; certain friends and family members; my partner, Leo’s father: I ditched everything and everyone that wasn't good for me.”
Speaking as someone who lost their mother to cancer as a teenager; I can relate fully to that moment of recognition experienced by Jessica…that life really is short.
By her own admission, the event compelled Jessica to make changes in her life. She changed her behaviour and her direction.
As a culture, we have a collective and intrinsic sense of the length of time we expect a person to live and when we personally experience the loss of someone who is extremely close to us at a time when seemingly they have many years ahead of them; the mark it leaves is profound.
Another thing I recognise in Jessica is her need to do something meaningful with her life and to pretty much reject anything she perceives that isn’t.
Existentialists recognise this kind of behaviour as core to their way of thinking.
Soren Kierkegaard; acknowledged as the originator of existentialism didn’t lose someone in the same way that Jessica did, but as a young man he did lose the love of his life. He broke his engagement off in a state of uncertainty about what he was to do with his life? He chose the church.
Kierkegaard was driven by questions such as:
What am I to do?
How can I find a purpose?
What is the truth that is the truth to me?
Existentialism places each individual at the centre of its thinking and asks us to consider the subjective experience we each have of life and the responsibility we have to ourselves to make sense of it as best we can and to make best use of the short and precious time we have.
It makes us ask the question of ourselves: what is the best version of me and how can I make it manifest?
For Kierkegaard, read Jessica.
Jessica’s Dad was asking himself the same question, immaterial of the fact he was 55 years of age. He wanted to be a chef. He knew intrinsically that the best use of his precious time and the best version of him would have been spent as a chef.
Jessica like Kierkegaard illustrates how difficult that leap can be. The leap from who we are to who we really want to be.
Look at the changes Jessica acknowledges she had to make, changes to her behaviour and lifestyle and look at the people Kierkegaard and Jessica had to choose to leave behind to find their own sense of authenticity.
Unfortunately, it is that moment of recognition that life is short that so often compels us to make the changes we really wish we could make. And how sad it is that it takes such an event to give us the gumption we need to follow it through.
The upside of course is that despite the difficulty, some people go on to do great things. People like Jessica.
Her website can be found here: https://www.gallierhouse.co.ukBack to Blog