Professor Keller was curious about many things: why teapots dribble or how earthworms wriggle. Until a few months ago, Lux Narayan hadn’t heard of Joseph Keller. Then he read about him in the New York Times, in the obituaries. The Times had half a page of editorial dedicated to Joseph Keller.
Lux Narayan is a researcher and he began to wonder if there were lessons we could learn from obituaries. So he looked at 2,000 editorial, non-paid obituaries, over a 20 month period between 2015 and 2016. Lux Narayan uncovered, many lessons from lives well-led, and what those people immortalized in print could teach us. The exercise was a fascinating testament to the kaleidoscope that is life. Forty percent of the people were involved in film, theatre, music, dance and art. Even more fascinating was the fact that the overwhelming majority of obituaries featured people, famous and non-famous, who did seemingly extraordinary things. They made a positive dent in the fabric of life. Which leads the second most common word descriptor found in the obituaries, “helped.”
So ask yourselves as you go back to your daily lives: How am I using my talents to help society? Because the most powerful lesson here is, if more people lived their lives trying to be famous in death, the world would be a much better place.
Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you contemplate what your obituary will say about you.
PS: Remember to hold the ones you love just a little closer and tighter this week (without expectations).
To watch Lux Narayan’s presentation “What I learned from 2,000 obituaries, http://www.ted.com/talks/lux_narayan_what_i_learned_from_2_000_obituaries/transcript?language=en
(image description: the author of the talk, Lux Narayan is speaking. He is wearing a t-shirt that says Analytics & Insights & Metrics & you can see a slide in the background that shows the most common descriptors found in the obituaries. Top word: famous then you can read John, Former, American, Year, Work, One, War, World, Art, and Help which is a brighter white then the other words)