That famous saying comes from a letter American statesman Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend way back in 1789.
Here’s the whole thing:
Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
Since this MYOB thing is supposed to be a business column it would be logical for you to expect me to use that quote as a lead into a piece about taxes or the need for a body of laws… but that’s not what I’m going to do.
I’m going to write about the unavoidable fact that we are all going to die.
Not the cheeriest topic I’ve ever come up with but I’m going to stick with it because I believe it is something most of us should try to be aware of a bit more often than we are.
The reason I say that is because I think being aware of the limited time we have can actually improve the quality of our lives.
Of course I don’t mean we should dwell on it to the point of getting depressed and giving up on everything, I just mean we should be aware that we won’t be here forever so we might as well give it our best while we can.
I mentioned a couple of weeks back that a good friend of mine died on the day I retuned to Botswana to sort out some matters related to his illness and the passing of my wife who died four years ago, so our mortality has certainly been on my mind.
It might seem that my reason for telling you this is to make you feel sorry for me; but that is not the case.
In fact, being aware of Buzz and Lesley’s deaths has helped me keep my other problems in perspective so that I can really appreciate all the good things I have in my life.
I suppose the main reason most of us resist thinking about our own deaths is that we believe dying is a bad thing.
But another fact is that we don’t really know that; it’s just an assumption.
I mean, who knows what is going to happen next; it could be better than the life we now know, it could be worse, it could be exactly the same or it could be nothing at all.
That means there is only a 25 percent chance that assumption is correct.
I can’t see the logic in making the purpose of our lives simply staying alive, especially since that approach guarantees ultimate failure.
So what do I think we should do?
The answer could be contained in another saying that claims a person who doesn’t have anything worth dying for hasn’t a life worth living.
Maybe the point is to find something in this life that is more important to us than our own lives; maybe a person, or a place or an ideal.
Then, if we had something we would be willing to die to protect, we would also have something that would truly make our lives worth living.