Final Thoughts: people wanting to live a more meaningful life may look to learn from the deathbed perspectives of others but there are reasons to think that the view from the deathbed is worse, not better, than the view from the midst of life, for informing us about what a life well-lived entails.

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“A man is never happy, but spends his whole life in striving after something that he thinks will make him so; he seldom attains his goal, and when he does, it is only to be disappointed; he is mostly shipwrecked in the end, and comes into harbour with mast and rigging gone. And then, it is all one whether he is happy or miserable; for his life was never anything more than a present moment always vanishing; and now it is over.” — Arthur Schopenhauer


Argument for deathbed perspective: The deathbed perspective is the last you ever have, if your last thought is “that was a good life” then that is the last thought you will ever have. Everything else that happened is a memory at that point, the end is all that matters. All your mistakes and suffering does not matter at that moment, and there are no other moments to overwrite it. Argument for living perspective: Your deathbed is nothing but another moment of your life, not more or less valuable than any other. It is better to live life in the moment and regret it later than to work towards the perfect ending, which you might not even get if you arent lucky. My own conclusion: I personally think life should be lived in the present, but always with mindfulness of the future. For example, pushing through something you hate because of something years down the line can be worth it as long as you dont make yourself too miserable in the process, since that would defeat the point. The ending to our stories is not certain, prepare for it, but dont live for the ending, have your journey.


The problem with the deathbed perspective is that only someone in a good financial position dies in a bed with someone watching over them and recording their thoughts. And many of them are hard working people. So they might say “I worked too much” but you’ll never get to hear what the guy who didn’t work **enough** says because he’s dying somewhere in a ditch or low-cost room.


I always preferred Marcus Aurelius’s variation of this, which is, “live as though you are a dying man”. I think this is better because it recognises the finite nature of life while not being so drastic.


The deathbed perspective is valuable largely because how uncut one’s perspective becomes. There’s no angle to play at this stage in your life – the game is over. Thus, we get a real viewpoint, catalyzed by impending eternal annihilation and the truth that very annihilation facilitates. Why did life evolve to become aware of itself and it’s own mortality? The human existence is a tragedy; all the societal games we create and play simply create an illusion of “progress” or “fulfillment” or “success” that distracts the mind from it’s own mortality. You could argue (and some philosophers do) that everything we do in life is to distract us from death. So what’s the significance of the deathbed perspective and life’s awareness of it’s own inevitable death? Our awareness of our mortality is necessary for the proliferation of love. If the universe was a callous, cut and dry existence, then why would the universe create love? If we were immortal beings existing in a utopia, would love be as significant? How do you respond in the face of death? Do you manipulate others, succumb to fear, become hateful, or do you respond with love, even with the acknowledgement that on your deathbed nothing may matter at all? If this universe is an empty void of random chance, then why is everything so damn harmonious? We’ll never know the answers and we’ll always have the questions.