Existentialists have a reputation to love talking about death.
And in a way that’s true, in that “endings” matter greatly. Our relationship with time, temporality, endings and, yes, death, are intricately linked to almost everything we do and how we experience being human.
Death offers a layer of meaning to life that couldn’t exist if we were to live forever. Similarly, any uncertainty you might have about whether your job or relationship is still going to be there for you in a year’s time is an invitation to make the most of it right now.
And zooming out a little bit, I’m literally grateful each morning that we’ve got warm water flowing out of the tap and I don’t have to ration my showers (yet?).
The planet is in grave danger, or rather: human existence as we know it on this planet is in grave danger. Most people are aware of this fact. A tiny fraction of those are up in arms about it. Many (consciously or unconsciously) prefer not to let this enter their sphere of awareness. After all, it’s uncomfortable to think about endings. So, many prefer not to.
And yet, endings are an inevitable part of living, and death is a certainty.
My first ever TED talk I watched was Stephen Petranek’s “10 ways the world could end very suddenly”, and I remember the awareness this instilled in me. For weeks I was living a richer human experience, more mindful of the here-and-now, and despite the struggles I was facing at the time, I felt an acute sense that everything was more or less okay. Existing includes anxiety and suffering, but I was still there, and that meant something.
This, I realised, is also why I love post-apocalyptic stories, like zombie movies. It’s not just the falling away of most rules, bringing out the existential freedom in people, and the most interesting character developments that ensue. It’s the reminder that, in some way, the world (even if it’s “just” yourworld as you know it) could end very suddenly.
Arguably that’s most likely not going to be Zombies, though I did just watch and loved The Last of Us, the most realistic “Zombie” scenario I’ve seen to date, where a cordyceps mushroom evolves to be able to spread to human hosts. This is based on a very real fungus that can control insects’ behaviour and can e.g. wipe out a whole ant colony within a matter of days. If you have not seen this video filmed by David Attenborough’s Planet Earth team, it’s mind-blowing! And it gave me significant chills… and that feeling again, yes, somewhat anxious and concerned, but mainly of gratitude, and an energy to enjoy what is, right now, as much as I can. Things might go haywire at any moment.
Years of coaching with an existential lens taught me that this relationship with endings makes a huge difference to how we experience life. Some get caught in anxiety and stress when faced with that awareness. Some so-much-so that they suppress and ignore it. Others embrace endings as a natural characteristic of being human, and find meaning and energy in it.
That said though, while our relationship with endings makes a tremendous difference to our wellbeing and human experience, it doesn’t mean that we should just accept that the world is going to end.
Stephen Petranek offered solutions to some of the most pressing dangers in the world in the year 2002. The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk does excellent work to “study and mitigate risks that could lead to human extinction and civilisation collapse”. This fascinating podcast episode with Toby Ord and Sam Harris offers more insights into very real risks and what we could do about them.
But for most people, it’s not the big, humanity-threatening issues that concern them the most. Often the endings in question are not even that significant in the long run. But either way, taking a good look at your relationship with death and endings creates a form of “existential resilience”, and helps us experience a richer human experience.
Yannick out. With Love.
Good luck to us all 🙂
New Project: Looking for Coaching Lab Ambassadors
Care to help us spread the word?
In April we’ll be launching the Coaching Lab publicly, in an effort to make quality coaching demos available to as many coaches as we can. Those who have experienced what we’re doing seem to love the concept and find it super valuable, so our next step is to make it more visible.
We’re working on producing a bunch of Lab-related content in an effort to broaden our sphere and inspire more coaches to tap into this well-spring of knowledge and experience, but we all know that the best form of marketing is to get the people on board who believe in what you’re doing, and for those people to tell their friends and colleagues that this is worth their time.
And that’s where you come in (perhaps).
If you appreciate the Coaching Lab and would like to help us spread the word, get in touch (email@example.com) to say that you’d like to help in some way, and I’ll then reach out to discuss how that could look like, so that you can do it in an authentic way (even if it’s just one post on your social media during our launch week, every little helps!).
If I get plenty of hands up, I will set up a proper affiliate/ambassador system so that you can start earning from your referrals, but that’s another paid subscription service on our platform and we’re not making any profit off the Lab currently, so for now the only motivation is to help make what we offer to coaches more visible, so that we can grow our community and make its fruits more broadly available. I strongly believe that better coaches have a generative effect on families, communities, workplaces and the world at large. So this is a meaningful undertaking, and to be honest, marketing isn’t my strong suit, so I could do it with some help.
So if that’s you and you’d like to help in some way, I’d love to hear from you!.
The Coaching Lab Organising team Yannick, Gemma and Chanel