What is Perspective Chasers?

What is Perspective Chasers?

This blog post is a synthesis of the preface of my book, Smile Your Last Breath Away, and other thoughts to help try to summarize what being a Perspective Chaser means to me and what this community hopes to achieve.

Preface:

At 18 years old, a close friend of mine passed away, and for years after I was plagued with a nagging fear of death. I wanted more than anything to no longer be afraid, so I scoured the world and humanity for answers. One day, I found myself alone, paddling out to a small platform in Lake Thun, Switzerland. Melted snow from the surrounding Alps filled the lake. It was daybreak and I sat on a platform for a long mindful moment, the cool water created socks around my feet as I stared into the bottom of the lake.

What if the meaning of life was to stop thinking about it? I thought. My heart beat a little faster, had anyone ever thought about that? Maybe this thought was the cure for the endless sublime fear of being lost whilst taking my last breath. Because for the first time in many years, I thought I had something that could help.

Not only did this thought not help me, I learned later of the long list of people and philosophers who had come up with that same question. Why was it surprising to me that I wasn’t the first person to think about this? I had the same thoughts as people from hundreds to thousands of years before me, which was interesting, but after thinking about it, not surprising at all — we are all humans.

Eventually, I learned that with the number of people on this planet who have contemplated anything before, I was not alone, and any idea I found in my mind was almost certainly not original. However, I learned that it is not about the ideas themselves, rather, how we learned them, how we understand them, how we make use of them, and how we explain them.

As such, you will not be surprised by many of the ideas in this book. For example, the realization that we are insignificant leads to freedom, peace, and enjoyment, is not new. In fact, a year after starting the seemingly insurmountable task of writing down what I had learned on my journey, I stumbled upon the book Meditations, a misleading title of Marcus Aurelius’ personal journal while he was the emperor of Rome.

Marcus makes either deliberate or tangential attempts to answer the questions: Why are we here? How should we live our lives? How can we ensure that we do what is right? How can we protect ourselves against the stresses and pressures of daily life? How should we deal with pain and misfortune? How can we live with the knowledge that someday we will no longer exist?[1]

I find it humbling and comforting to know that two thousand years ago, a man, an emperor of one of the largest empires our world has seen, pondered the same questions as I did. It made these questions seem more human and my pursuit more interesting. What would I think? What are my answers? Then it became: what did I learn that others could use to help on their search?

As with any idea, for me, the beauty is in the perspective that someone attaches to it. It’s in asking vastly different people the same question, hearing their answers, and seeing how from a certain angle, the same idea can look completely different than before. It’s in changing the way you live, not because of the idea itself, but in the way you see it and subsequently use it. Similar to how the hand we use every day can turn into a wolf or a butterfly with a dark room, a wall, and light shone from the right place. In many ways, this book is that. The ideas are the hand and the perspectives are where the light shines from, making a familiar idea turn into a novel pleasure or a tool to make one.

With everything that has changed about the world since 161 CE (when Marcus Aurelius began his reign) why, over 2,000 years later, was I contemplating the same questions as he was? He was searching for meaning and so was I. He was trying to come to terms with death and so was I. So is everyone I think. I think meaning is the central issue with which we orchestrate our lives, and without it why one could be afraid to die in every moment like I was. It was the fear of dying without any meaning in my life and that death had the ability of ending my pursuit at any time.

Logically then, I asked, what does it mean to have meaning? Where do we find it, can we create it, and if so, how? How do we make sure that our meaning is somewhat morally ‘good’? What does being a ‘good’ person mean? Does it matter? How can we be sure that our definition of good is somewhat universally good? Is there a universal law of morality? If not, what then?

The founding fathers of the United States believed that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They were so convicted in this that they stared death in the face and waged a war against a much larger, wealthier, and better equipped empire. However, half of those same founding fathers owned slaves, so how did they miss that slaves were men too?

The central concept in this book is: How would you live, who would you be, and what perspectives would carry you to be capable, in the last moments before death, to smile your last breath away? The central answer to that is meaning. But, how does one live a meaningful life? What is a meaningful life? And can life have meaning?

The timing of our death is unknown. It may be abrupt or we may slowly fade away-- the latter giving us time to ponder how we lived our lives. I imagine it’s difficult to be content on our death bed with time to contemplate, and even more so to be content during the journey to that point. If we don’t have time to contemplate our life before we die, we’d have to live a life where our every day and all our moments are enough, so our last breath is always only a smile away. And we wouldn’t be afraid of death precisely because we were always capable of smiling our last breath away. This book is a journey to explore what that looks like — to understand what goes on in the mind of someone who feels that way.

Throughout this book, you’ll be given lenses to see and observe light shone from new places. This book is not intended to give you the answers to what a meaningful life is for you – those lie within you and you must choose for yourself. With impending death, you will be your own judge of your answers to the questions you ask yourself. My hope is that this book inspires you and arms you with perspectives to go into the world to find and create meaning for yourself -- to help you discover your questions and your answers.

In the end, I hope you have fun – the journey is all we ever have anyways.

Perspective chasing was founded on coping with and reasoning through all these questions. It was the only way to find out what I didn’t know I didn’t know. It was what helped me find the questions I want to ask myself at the end looking back, and the answers to those questions. Imagining myself on my death bed is one perspective I found along the way, it is a thought experiment to try to make tangible that I will not exist someday and I try to imagine what would I care about most in those moments right before it’s all over – it’s a way to see more clearly through the clutter and noise of life.

We are all on this journey together to death and I hope this community can leverage each other on that journey to make change in our lives and in the world.

The slogan of Perspective Chasers is ‘til our last breath – we are all on a journey to take our last breath and we are all Perspective Chasers until that point.

The biggest question then is, what will we do and who will we be until our last breath? Will you smile it away?

Til' Our Last Breath,

James Kiesewetter

 

Click here for more information on James’ book Smile Your Last Breath Away
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  1. From introduction by Gregory Hayes of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

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