— Sam Harris American author, philosopher and neuroscientist 1967
2010s, Context: Most of us do our best not to think about death. But there’s always part of our minds that knows this can’t go on forever. Part of us always knows that we’re just a doctor’s visit away, or a phone call away, from being starkly reminded with the fact of our own mortality, or of those closest to us. Now, I’m sure many of you in this room have experienced this in some form; you must know how uncanny it is to suddenly be thrown out of the normal course of your life and just be given the full time job of not dying, or of caring for someone who is... But the one thing people tend to realize at moments like this is that they wasted a lot of time, when life was normal. And it’s not just what they did with their time – it’s not just that they spent too much time working or compulsively checking email. It’s that they cared about the wrong things. They regret what they cared about. Their attention was bound up in petty concerns, year after year, when life was normal. This is a paradox of course, because we all know this epiphany is coming. Don’t you know this is coming? Don’t you know that there’s going to come a day when you’ll be sick, or someone close to you will die, and you will look back on the kinds of things that captured your attention, and you’ll think ‘What was I doing?’. You know this, and yet if you’re like most people, you’ll spend most of your time in life tacitly presuming you’ll live forever. Like, watching a bad movie for the fourth time, or bickering with your spouse. These things only make sense in light of eternity. There better be a heaven if we’re going to waste our time like this.
Sam Harris, "Death and the Present Moment", speech at the Global Atheist Convention (April 2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTxTCz4Ums&t=17m52s