Hong Kong was recently shattered by a monster storm – Typhoon Mangkhut. It mauled Hong Kong with 175km/h winds and flood water reaching their highest levels since 1904. One can only imagine the suffering and damage in the aftermath of this natural calamity.

Many essential services such as power, transportation and water was seriously disrupted. The roads looked like a scene from a “world-coming-to-an-end-movie” albeit without any super hero.

Let me change the topic and share a slice of Steve Job’s famous speech at Stanford University in 2005

“About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.”

Steve Jobs faced his own death and that changed the way he looked at life because it quickly reminded him that he was not invincible. Like every soul in this world, his time was finite.

Our mind plays a trick on us by making us forget the eternal truth and pushes us back into the daily routine, pushes us back into securing our future, pushes us back into believing that we can control the world. Otherwise we won’t be so obsessed with making more money than we could ever spend in a lifetime, obsessed with our image and status in the society or obsessed with materialistic pleasure.

This has become more of a problem in modern society which is so technologically advanced where we can speak to anyone in other side of the world, control our daily life with a command to Siri or announce the world about every single act of our day through social media. This creates a fake illusion, making us control freaks.

So now going back to the after effects of Typhoon. We could all see the physical damage but we never received the hidden message – “Memento mori”, meaning “Remember you are mortal”

As people came out of their houses or rather logged into their social media accounts, they were shocked to see the damage – boats washed away, fallen trees everywhere, broken windows and flood debris. Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram was buzzing with “Are you fine?” messages from friends, relatives and strangers around the world. They quickly started checking if they had to be in the office next day, if schools are working, if public transportation is back up and running so that they can go back into their routine. However not for a moment, did people meditate on the thought of how fragile life is? One may ask what is the point of thinking about death? Death does not make life pointless, but rather purposeful.

Thinking about our mortality creates a real urgency in our life to make big decisions of our life, to think about a day at a time and to follow our heart. As Steve Jobs said “Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

Fortunately we don’t need a near death experience like Steve Jobs to realize that. Remembering how light our grip on life is can help us have a tighter grip on the purpose of life. We may not be able to control death but we can certainly control the way we live life.

When death strikes us, of course we would like to last a little longer but it would be great to make the best out of what was already given to us.

One thought on “The after effects of Typhoon Mangkhut

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