It’s been almost 5 months since YOLO: Chapter 2 and exactly 3 months this blog post was scheduled to be released. Since then, basically a lot has happened in the world. Moesha’s had a massive brain fart on CNN, my favourite rapper J. Cole’s released a not so good album and Kanye West just teased our musical loins-literally with a hint of an upcoming album(It ended up being trash). Meanwhile, in my world, I’ve struggled to keep up blogging with intense hours of studies(finally finished med school. Yipee!). Really have to confess blogging isn’t for the faintest of hearts. Sobs. But enough of narcissism!
In Part One of YOLO, we took a journey through my shocking personal experience with death. It still feels like yesterday, when that little kid faded away. In the end, we took a brutal insight into the Ultimate Truth: Death is inevitable and coming for us all
In Part 2 of YOLO, things took a twist. We realized beliefs had a massive role in holding us back from living an amazing life and realizing our dreams.
And now, we take our final journey. Hold my hands, lets take a leap of faith, Assassins Creed Style.
A PERFECT TIMING:
For 5 years, I had tried my utmost best to catch an Uncle Ebo Whyte stage play. The hype surrounding his stage plays were unreal! And every time I heard people give rave reviews of them, it further reminded me of how pathetic my life was then, with chronic schooling. Then on the 7th of September this year, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to watch his then-upcoming act dubbed “One Man Show. A Crazy Ride”.
The timing couldn’t be any better. I had just finished my finals, a good friend I had met way back in University had returned from South Africa, and hell yeah, she knew someone who knew someone who had extra tickets for two. Finally, I was going to see Uncle Ebo Whyte for the first time.
If you don’t know the man up there, where have you been living in the last 10 years? His name is Uncle Ebo Whyte – a creative playwright, marriage counsellor and a fucking legend. And I mean that in every breath of the word.
I made my way to the upper floor of the National Theatre. Lights go out, and out pops this bald middle-aged man in blue jeans pants, a white top, and a dashing pink jacket. ”Is that Uncle Ebo Whyte?” I whisper to my friend. “Yes!”, she says. Wow! I nod in awe. He makes quite an entry and starts engaging us in hilarious banter. I laugh so hard. 5 minutes in and I’m already asking myself a dozen questions. Where is the cast? Soon, it dawns on me – this isn’t a stage play. It’s stand up comedy. Huh, I’m thinking. He’s never done this before.
Now, I’m an avid lover of stand up comedy. It’s one of the many cool stuff I do besides playing video games. 15 minutes in, and I’m being so critical of him, comparing him unfairly to the likes of Kevin Hart and Eddie Griffin. But he’s holding his own, delivering punches after punches. The style with which he delivers the adult jokes is breathtaking. I’ve laughed so hard, I’m at the edge of mentalgasm.
Then something happened…
Uncle Ebo takes a deep breath and recounts a story. One that would have a deep impact on my life, and change him forever.
He wakes up one morning, and is told by a close relative – “I’ve had a dream you’re going to die”. He freaks out. Later during the week, his niece runs to her mom, telling her, ”Mom, I had a dream Grandpa is dead”. Worse of all, two more people tell him the same thing- “Uncle Ebo you’re going to die soon”. What’s the word to describe such a situation? Clusterfuck!!
He continues, taking a deep sigh which reverberates throughout the auditorium. At this point, the whole place is dead silent. Swear I could hear my own heartbeat. And with a worried manly tone, he says, ” I was so much convinced I was going to die. I went down on my knees and cried, ”Oh God, if you let me live to see my 64th birthday I will do something I’ve never done before to honour you”.
A tear rolls down my eye.
THE DENIAL OF DEATH:
It is the year 1969, and Ernest Becker has just been relieved of duty as a teaching professor for the third time in his academic career. Three years on, he will be diagnosed with colon cancer and will spend the next two years of his life bedridden with little hope given the prognosis was fatal. Within the period of diagnosis and death, Becker writes a book about death, gifting the world with a Pulitzer-winning book titled ” Denial of Death” which will change the world of Psychiatry for generations to come.
The most important question here is why did it take a grim prognosis of colon cancer for Becker to write an astounding intellectual world-changing book? Why will it take the knowledge of imminent death for Uncle Ebo Whyte to face his fears and do something he hasn’t done in his entire life? The Denial of Death has the answers.
Ernest Becker will call this phenomenon The Terror of Death.
Being honest, I am scared of dying. And you probably are too. Death scares the shit out of all of us. Becker argues eternalism has been built into our biology. We want to live forever. To do this, man goes into “self-preservation” mode – a deliberate effort against disintegration a.k.a take action to survive as long as possible.
The ever-present fear of death is an affective part of “self-preservation”. Subconsciously, the fear of death drives us to survive. It’s the reason we eat good food, go to work to put food on the table, buy drugs to cure illness.
Then shit hits the roof. Many people repress this gift of nature consciously. Many people do not come to terms with the reality of their mortality. People do not want to talk about death. Ignoring it becomes a safer option and will gladly shove a middle finger when it comes up. But then, should this be?
The Sunny Side of Death:
Early men who were most afraid were those who were most realistic about their situation in nature, and they passed on to their offspring a realism that had a high survival value.- Ernest Becker (The Denial Of Death)
It was another Friday in my budding, bubbly life as a junior doctor. I was on an errand to get a bladder syringe for my patient. The only place to get one was the Stroke Unit. I enter with much enthusiasm, greeting the nurse in charge. Then she bursts out in anger. “Get it and leave”. The first thought that pops in my head, ” the fuck she thinks she is?” I grab the syringe and just when I’m about leaving, something will happen that will give me a sense of appreciation for this gift of nature. ” Young man, check this patient’s pulse”. Oh hell, she needs my help now? I walk up to the patient, check his pulse and felt nothing. Check his carotid pulse, nothing. Pop out my pen torch, no pupillary response. No chest activity, cold extremities. Check his Sp02. ” My thoughts burst out, shit he’s dead?”. All the nurses turn around looking at me. “Yes! Just seconds ago. We were even conversing”, the in-charge said. “Certify his death”. At that point, my hands are shaking, I had just had another fresh encounter with death. But unlike watching from afar in YOLO 1, I actually was experiencing this in real-time.
I went home, in deep thought, what if this is the last time, I ever get to talk to someone? What if this was last time, I ever took a walk home? Was I prepared for this reality?
Pre-tragedy, I was this guy who was taking life casually, occasionally writing blog posts, occasionally calling family to tell them how much I love them, eating just about anything, animalistic in nature in pursuit of pleasure.
Post tragedy, I am giving a quality fuck about what is most important in my life: family, real friends, my health, my spirituality, my blog. Things that give meaning to my life. And all it took was the reality of confronting my mortality. I was going to die someday. I had no surety of how long that will be.
In truth, it could be by a plane crash, cancer, heck every calorie we take in is pushing towards our demise. There is no damn time!
Oddly, it will be a patient’s death at Stroke Unit, that will give deeper meaning to my life. It will be the imminence of death that will make Uncle Ebo Whyte let go of all insecurities to produce one of his life’s best performances. And it will be a grim prognosis of colon cancer that will give Ernest Becker the chance to write his best work.
If you ever doubted, God answers prayers, I was staring right at an answered prayer. God had granted him life, and Uncle Ebo had fulfilled his end of the bargain with something extraordinary. Something he says he had never dreamed of doing, and hell yeah, he threw us all off with “a crazy ride”.
The show ends with the choir singing Ryan Shupe’s “Dream Big” as Uncle Ebo sits on a stool as he ad-libs along, slowly fading away from the stage. It was an emotional climax to the show. My heart was beating. I had just witnessed beauty beyond measure.
Yet, in a bizarre, backwards way, death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero – Mark Manson( Subtle of Not Giving A F*ck)
You might just not be lucky like Uncle Ebo to get a second shot at taking a leap of faith. In truth, you don’t need to a diagnosis of cancer to give life your utmost best shot.
Time is now! Confront the reality of your mortality. Fuck all your insecurities, failures, disappointments. Ask that girl out, tell your loved ones you love them and show it. Give your life a damn deeper purpose.
Cos…truly, Death is coming for us all and it is your life’s biggest motivator!