“Live Like We’re Dying” is the latest single by Kris Allen, the reigning American Idol. It’s not a bad song. It’s even mathematically correct, which is rare for a pop song, because it says “We only got 86 400 seconds in a day.” Geek that I am, I took out a calculator and multiplied 60 by 60 by 24, and it came out to exactly 86,400.
I don’t know if you felt this way, but when I first heard the song, I thought to myself, “Haven’t I heard this before?” Which is weird because it’s a brand-new single, released this year. It turns out that Tim McGraw has a recent song with a very similar title, “Live Like You Were Dying.” Also, Lenka has a song called, “Live Like You’re Dying” I don’t think I’ve heard the Lenka song, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the Tim McGraw one.
But this is not about pop music. It’s about an idea. There is this idea in our culture that if you think you’re going to die, you should live your life to the fullest, meaning you should travel to exotic places, eat rich food, jump out of a plane, etc.
But it takes just a little thinking to realize that this is a fantasy. This is not the way most people die – in any culture. First, most people don’t have any certainty about when they will die. Second, even people with a high certainty that they will die soon, as in a few months, don’t live their last days this way. Living one’s life to the fullest, in the sense of taking a fancy vacation or buying a Harley requires two things that people who are dying typically don’t have. These two things are health and wealth.
Prophet Muhammad (S) told Ibn Umar to “live in this world like a stranger, or a traveler.” A traveler leaves home with what he or she will need for the journey. The word “need” here is crucial and it’s different from “want.” One may want to bring along one’s collection of neckties, but most can meet their needs with just one or two. The true test of a need is the “sine qua non” test. The Latin phrase “sine qua non” means “without which, [there is] nothing.” Our needs are the things we cannot do without, like water, medicine, and clothing.
But how does one apply this analogy to life? If life is a journey, where are we going? Whether we choose to believe it or not, we are all going to the world of the Hereafter, of Heaven or of Hell. We cannot bring our bodies or our wealth into the next world, but we can bring our deeds.
The best deeds are not huge acts of generosity but small acts of good done daily. Reading a few verses of the Quran before bed, listening to one’s parents, calling one’s siblings, and perhaps writing in a blog to inspire others to do good.