“If I Were Able to Live My Life Anew”

“If I were able to live my life anew, in the next I would try to commit more errors. I would not try to be so perfect, I would relax more. I would be more foolish than I’ve been, in fact, I would take few things seriously.

I would be less hygienic. I would run more risks, take more vacations, contemplate more sunsets, climb more mountains, swim more rivers. I would go to more places where I’ve never been, I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans, I would have more real problems and less imaginary ones.

I was one of those people that lived sensibly and prolifically each minute of his life; Of course I had moments of happiness. If I could go back I would try to have only good moments. Because if you didn’t know, of that is life made: only of moments; Don’t lose the now.

I was one of those that never went anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, an umbrella, and a parachute; If I could leave again, I would travel lighter. If I could live again, I would begin to walk barefoot until autumn ends. I would take more cart rides, contemplate more dawns, and play with more children, If I had another life ahead of me.

But already you see, I am 85, and I know that I am dying.”

– Variously attributed to Jorge Luis Borges and Don Herold (via Josh Kaufman)

12 Responses to “If I Were Able to Live My Life Anew”

  1. Thank you for this!

    You just brought me one fo the simplest way to some up what life truly is:

    “…that is life made: only of moments…”

    Thank you.

  2. DaveJ says:

    I know some people who are 45-or-so and lived this way, and they say things like “I should have buckled down and been more responsible, so that I wouldn’t still have this dead-end job.” Maybe life is made of choices rather than moments.

  3. Bo says:

    I dont think it means act irresponsibly. Taking risks and creating new experiences can lead to opportunities that would allow one to have a successful life. Step out of your comfort zone but also try to make it enjoyable.

  4. Nicholas MacDonald says:

    I think the best thing is to do both. Most people think I live fearlessly or recklessly- after all, I packed up my life and moved to the other side of the world, to a country where I didn’t speak the language or know a soul, and have made quite a go of it. I’ve pushed myself into a lot of crazy situations and kind of lived with the smoke out, so to speak… but at the same time I protect my credit rating, take tons of vitamin pills, try to eat right and not burn too many bridges.

    There’s no reason you can’t do both, really.

  5. Akshay Kapur says:

    The comments by Dave and Nicholas really complete the post. You have to strike a balance and need some kind of foundation to live this way. It could be financial or it could be intangible; an infallible belief in one’s abilities to succeed in any circumstance.

    Cal Newport’s Corrupted Callings really speaks about this balance in detail.

  6. Bock says:

    That doesn’t sound like Borges to me.

  7. Bock says:

    OK. Here is the Borges poem with a similar title. You’ll note an obvious difference in style:

    The Instant

    Where are the centuries, where is the dream
    of sword-strife that the Tartars entertained,
    where are the massive ramparts that they flattened?
    Where is the wood of the Cross, the Tree of Adam?

    The present is singular. It is memory
    that sets up time. Both succession and error
    come with the routine of the clock. A year
    is no less vanity than is history.

    Between dawn and nightfall is an abyss
    of agonies, felicites, and cares.
    The face that looks back from wasted mirrors,
    the mirrors of night, is not the same face.
    The fleeting day is frail and is eternal;
    expect no other Heaven, no other Hell.

  8. Bock says:

    And now to be snarky: the poem you posted is a cliched piece of shit. You usually do better than that.

  9. Mthson says:

    Fast forward 80 years and we’ve implemented Aubrey de Grey’s SENS.

    Wouldn’t it be better to work hard and increase our chances of avoiding a pointless death from surprise brain cancer than to tickle our ape-brains with sunsets and walking barefoot?

    I think the poem’s great, but also keep in mind the big picture. :)

  10. Nicholas MacDonald says:

    Let’s not be too confident; the immortalists don’t have too great a track record to date. Eat in moderation, drink in moderation, take your pills, see your doctor, but don’t bet the farm on dramatic life extension. I’d be happy as a clam just to squeeze out 100 good years- that would be miracle enough for me.

  11. Nicholas MacDonald says:

    What I typically hear is the opposite- people wishing they’d taken more risks. Either because they might have gone further- or because they decided that their “responsible” life simply wasn’t worth the sacrifice of fun and excitement.

    I don’t think the choice is so binary, however… and not all risks are equal. There’s a difference between, say, going on a coke bender and betting your savings on a startup. Both might be reckless, but the latter has better potential payoff. Either way, though, you’re risking it all.

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