When I announced on Facebook a few days ago that I received a tourist visa for Iran, and that I should be passing through there next month, several people left messages along the lines of, “Be safe, take care.”
Thing is, I’m not all that concerned about visiting Iran. First of all, two sets of statistics1 2 show that I’m almost twice as likely to be murdered while visiting the USA than while visiting Iran. New Orleans was the murder capital of the country when I moved there in 20073, but somehow I never once felt unsafe during my three years in The Big Easy. Crime was definitely happening, but it seemed most of it was confined to troubled neighborhoods and transpired between warring drug dealers and the like.
Trouble was unlikely to find me unless I went looking for it.
Second, from what I hear from folks who’ve actually visited Iran, they find the people there to be among the friendliest and most accommodating of any country they’ve been to. It seems the regular folk in such countries are so eager to disprove the negative stereotypes that they go out of their way to be hospitable to tourists4.
Yeah, I’m sure Iran isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but I’m also pretty certain that it’s not nearly as hostile as the media would have us believe.
While presenting a workshop on blogging several weeks back in Zurich, a lady asked me about identity theft. She was hesitant to use her real name online and write about her personal life, for fear that someone could use that info to gain access to her bank account… or something.
My response to that lady was that yes, identity theft does happen. But as long as you don’t do anything dumb like post your pin number online, the chances of it happening are so small that it’s ridiculous to even worry about it. That would be like avoiding air travel for fear of a plane crash.
The way I see it, focusing on the miniscule chance that something bad might happen, and letting that fear dictate your behavior, is a sure fire way to miss out on all the cool things in life.
Yeah, you might get kidnapped and beheaded in the Middle East, but you’re probably more likely to get knocked down by a bus on your way to visit your grandmother in that home town you never had the courage to leave.
Sure, there’s a greater chance you’ll be a victim of identity theft if you write all about yourself online, but not starting that blog means you don’t get to help and inspire people the world over.
If I Should Die…
Despite all I’ve just written above, those comments on Facebook did get me thinking a bit about death. Two thoughts in particular:
- If I were to die soon, would I die happy with how I’ve lived my life?
- What would be the final message I’d like to share with the world?
So, just in case I do get beheaded in Iran, or flattened by a tram in Budapest, or fall off a tall horse in Turkey, I’m going to go ahead and answer those questions now5.
If I were to die soon, would I die happy with how I’ve lived my life?
I’m sure I can’t accurately answer that question without the threat of death being real, but I’ll give it my best shot anyway.
I like to think that yes, I would die happy. In recent years I feel that I’ve taken full responsibility for my life and started living more in line with my values. I strive to live consciously and spend time doing the things that are truly important to me, instead of living my life the way I feel other people or society at large will approve of.
Knowing that most people never get to live their dreams, I feel fortunate that I’ve already lived the bejesus out of one, and I’m well on my way to living another. The journey towards the latter is hugely fulfilling in itself, so I wouldn’t even be pissed if I died before I truly felt like I’d made it.
Additionally, methinks I’ve done a pretty good job in recent years of battling my own fears and insecurities, instead of continuing to allow them to hold me hostage as they did for a large chunk of my younger life. I’ve made great friends, I’ve loved great women, I’ve experienced joy and elation and heartbreak and sadness, and I’ve allowed myself to feel it all thoroughly.
I also realize and appreciate the fact that I’ve been extremely privileged. Born male to good parents in the Western world. And, lucky fecker that I am, I was born white! As Louis CK says, this being white shit is thoroughly good.
But perhaps more important than the privilege, is that I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of accepting the responsibility that comes with it. I’ve tried somewhat regularly to make a positive difference in the world, to leave people and places better than I found them. I could always have done more of course, and I’ll never get back those six months I wasted playing GTA3 back in college, but overall I’m pretty happy with my contribution to life.
I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to share some things via this blog. It seems I’ve helped a few people, like I’ve made a difference, and that many of my writings continue to have a positive impact. Many thanks to legendary people like you for reading and sharing.
I have very few regrets. I’ve given into fear more than I should have and I’ve wronged more people than I care to admit, but I’ve learned from most of my mistakes and made a consistent effort to correct course whenever I’ve gone astray. Perhaps it would have been nice to start my conscious growth journey at a younger age, but at the same time I know I should be thankful because most folks never start such a journey at all.
So yeah, all in all, life’s been pretty damn good for me so far. There’s still so much I want to see and learn and experience and contribute, but if I should die today, I’d die lucky.
What would be the final message I’d like to share with the world?
There are a few core concepts that I’ve written about here at Disrupting the Rabblement that methinks would serve well as my final message to the world. Bullet mode…
- Think for yourself.
- Live your dreams.
- You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.
- Normal is overrated. Let your freak flag fly.
- Question everything.
- Introduce elephants.
- Live experimentally.
- You are not your past. You are free to reinvent yourself at any moment and become whoever you want to be.
- Adopt a fluid self-concept.
- Try big things.
- Face your fears. Use them as sign posts, pointing the way to your best self.
- Fail often.
- Talk to strangers.
I wrote recently about beliefs changing over time, and how we shouldn’t cling too closely to them. In the comments, Miles made the distinction between beliefs and principles. I’d consider the above list to be the latter. I expect I’ll be writing encouraging words along those lines for as long as I live.
One last thing
If I were to die a horrible, unfair death, I’d like people not to hate whoever was responsible. That would just be a waste of energy, better directed elsewhere. And I’d like people not to miss me when I’m gone. In the words of Dr. Seuss,
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
If You Should Die…
This was all just a clever ruse to get you thinking about these things yourself 😛
So, tell me:
- If you were to die soon, would you die happy with how you’ve lived your life?
- What would be the final message you’d like to share with the world?
- List of countries by intentional homicide rate ↩
- Murder Rate by Country ↩
- Report from 2008: New Orleans has highest U.S. city crime rate. And apparently NOLA still had the highest murder rate in the USA as recently as 2010. ↩
- My experience meeting regular Iranians at the Iranian embassy here in Budapest backs this up. Two women I got chatting to there even gave me their contact information so I can look them up when I get to Tehran, and several other people offered me advice on things to see and do while traveling through. ↩
- Yes, I realize this is a very self-centered post. I figured I might get away with it since my month of no self-promo starts next week 😉 ↩