Social scientists may have already examined the cross-cultural regrets of those nearing end of life. If not, it would make fascinating reading to explore the differences and similarities. However, despite the many traits and beliefs that divide humanity, it’s likely that many of these are common.
[div class=attrib]By Massimo Pigliucci at Rationally Speaking:[end-div]
Bronnie Ware is the author (a bit too much on the mystical-touchy-feely side for my taste) of the blog “Inspiration and Chai” (QED). But she has also worked for years in palliative care, thereby having the life-altering experience of sharing people’s last few weeks and listening to what they regretted the most about their now about to end lives. The result is this list of “top five” things people wished they had done differently:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is, of course, anecdotal evidence from a single source, and as such it needs to be taken with a rather large grain of salt. But it is hard to read the list and not begin reflecting on your own life — even if you are (hopefully!) very far from the end.
Ware’s list, of course, is precisely why Socrates famously said that “the unexamined life is not worth living” (in Apology 38a, Plato’s rendition of Socrates’ speech at his trial), and why Aristotle considered the quest for eudaimonia (flourishing) a life-long commitment the success of which can be assessed only at the very end.
Let’s then briefly consider the list and see what we can learn from it. Beginning with the first entry, I’m not sure what it means for someone to be true to oneself, but I take it that the notion attempts to get at the fact that too many of us cave to societal forces early on and do not actually follow our aspirations. The practicalities of life have a way of imposing themselves on us, beginning with parental pressure to enter a remunerative career path and continuing with the fact that no matter what your vocation is you still have to somehow pay the bills and put dinner on the table every evening. And yet, you wouldn’t believe the number of people I’ve met in recent years who — about midway through their expected lifespan — suddenly decided that what they had been doing with their lives during the previous couple of decades was somewhat empty and needed to change. Almost without exception, these friends in their late ‘30s or early ‘40s contemplated — and many actually followed through — going back to (graduate) school and preparing for a new career in areas that they felt augmented the meaningfulness of their lives (often, but not always, that meant teaching). One could argue that such self-examination should have occurred much earlier, but we are often badly equipped, in terms of both education and life experience, to ask ourselves that sort of question when we are entering college. Better midway than at the end, though…
[div class=attrib]More from theSource here.[end-div]