I’m serious, I know that sounds like a crazy question, but I’m being dead serious (if you will forgive the pun ). I might equally ask, have you ever been alive? I suspect, though, I know the answer to that question. I remember you as a child- and you were happy. I know you would cry at times and get angry or sad sometimes, but basically you were really, really happy. Happy to be alive and happy to be here or at least that’s how I remember you. When I take my kids school and I see the kids there they remind me of you, of how you used to be. Laughing and running breathless, playing, living in a world filled with magic and love and possibility. A world so big and so mysterious, every day an adventure, every day a new story, filled with life. Alive to the world, breathing it in through their pores, raw experience, unmediated. What about you? Are you still breathing? How deeply do you breathe? Do you fill your lungs with air, or do you breathe shallowly, small breathes just enough to stay alive? Are you still playing? Do you feel? How much you do feel? Do you care? Do you love? Do you love another with all your heart and all your soul, with your whole being? Do you love another so that your life is unimaginable without them in it, without them in your world? Do you love another so that you would gladly lay down your life for them without a moment’s hesitation? Do you love another so that your soul aches with that love? Have you ever? If not, either you have yet understand what it means to love or you have forgotten, and either way you are not alive in the way that a love like that causes you to become alive, to become human. Life is not about playing it safe. Life is not a calculation; it’s not a mathematical problem to be solved, unless you’re a mathematician then maybe it is . But it is only because if you are truly a mathematician you love maths, and you understand creation as a mathematical equation. So when you do maths you are speaking to God. But my point is as Henry Miller said I’m not interested in calculating I want to live. If you are not willing to risk everything, and I mean everything, for what you love or who you love then you have forgotten how to live. What are you doing exactly, what is the grand plan? What are you waiting for, another chance? What are you saving yourself for the next life maybe? This is your life. This is not a dress rehearsal. Life is scary and failure is certain; and yes you will die, but before that you are bound to suffer quite a bit. So what, do you think hiding from the pain is going to help? Do you think if you save up enough money in the bank, you may just get away free? Do you think if you are a good boy or girl the god of suffering won’t find you and inflict your worst fears upon you? Well maybe… but I wouldn’t bet my life on it if I were you. Don’t fear failure or pain or suffering, there is nothing to fear they are virtually guaranteed. And I’m not talking about the kind of guarantee that you get from your car manufacturer either. But don’t let them take steal your chance for happiness by being too afraid to expose yourself to pain. When last did you cry I mean really cry, not sort of feel sad, I mean cry tears? When least did you laugh until you cried and your belly ached from the laughter? When last did you stay up the whole night doing something irresistible (and no I don’t mean sex, I’m getting there give me a chance ), I am talking about a book you couldn’t put down, or something you watched on TV through the night, or a conversation with a friend, but something you did much later and longer and more intensely than was wise, than was circumspect. What do you hope for, do you have a dream? Do you really care about your dream? Do you believe in your dream? If not, why not? Are you too scared or too cynical to dream? Then maybe you’re too scared or too cynical to be truly alive. In ancient Japan Samurai warriors were trained to go into battle with no fear of death believing that only a man who embraced death fearlessly could fight with a full heart. That’s not a bad metaphor for life. Of course you are scared, you would be crazy if you weren’t we all are, but don’t let that fear control you, don’t let it close you down to the beauty of life. What does it mean to be alive if not to live with passion? And by passion I don’t mean you need to be an Italian lover (although that would be a good start), but to live a life that you are passionate about. My brother’s and sisters you have but three score year and ten, maybe a little longer these days, although who really knows. Once you die who knows what’s next, if anything. Trust me I hope as much as you do probably more than you actually, that there is something more, and maybe there is, maybe… But what you’ve got is this. This is it. It’s not a trial run, this isn’t a test- this is your life, for Gods’ sake- live it. (And I really do mean for God’s sake). If you do good make damn sure that the good doing is its own reward, and if you intend to sin sin sincerely. But live, and live as if you mean it. There is a critical moment that lies in our future, all of our future, when possibility will change to history, and possibility will exist no more. That time is around the corner, don’t be fooled into thinking you have time- you don’t. What you have is possibility, not infinite possibility mind you, but you have a degree of freedom of choice. In this vast dark cosmos you have been given a little bit of light, a small flame if you will, what are you going to do with it? What you decide to do with that flame will define you. To be clear I am not asking you if you have succeeded at this thing we call life. What I’m asking you is have you even failed? Because to truly fail you need to fail spectacularly, you need all your chips riding on the bet, not just those you can spare. You need to commit yourself body and soul, so that when you fail, you cannot seek shelter in rationalisations. When you have done that and declared your intentions so that your failure is absolute and your humiliation complete, so that you cannot make pretence at success or disinterest, then my friend you are alive and then you are human. When you can go through all of that and rise again to face the next challenge then you will make us all proud to number one like you amongst us, we will look up at you and learn from you what it means to be alive. If you don’t fail you are simply not pushing yourself hard enough. You may be pretending to, but you’re not If you are truly still alive, and I realise that that is by no means certain, but in case you are then use this short time you have. Don’t do anything that’s not worth doing, which you don’t want inscribed in the tablet of your life that will exist long long after you and I are less than dust dispersed into eternity. And if you are no longer alive…well you can always make like Jesus and rise again, move the stone and walk once more amongst the living. Of course that is no mean feat, Christianity did not become the dominant religion for the last two millennium because just anyone can do that. But it was done before and maybe just maybe it can be done again. Christ was abandoned on the cross, abandoned by his friends and disciples and abandoned by his Father in heaven, forsaken and left to die on the cross. Maybe in some way the same has happened to you, maybe you too have been crucified. But as He rose so can you. As He chose life so can you. Or not, it’s your call after all, I just thought its worth checking in with you to see if the space you are occupying is still needed, God knows this planet is getting crowded and we need the space so please figure it out are you busy living or busy dying? With love, Stephen.