Thoughts after ‘Elysium’: What would you do if you had five days to live?

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December 19, 2013 by Hope W.

Matt Damon in Elysium: making a last stand and saving people before going out in a blaze of glory

Matt Damon in Elysium: making a last stand before going out in a blaze of glory

I was watching Elysium yesterday. (It was ok. I might have liked it better if it wasn’t so… war-torn? Greyish in tone? Gory?) The protagonist, played by Matt Damon, is exposed to lethal amounts of radiation and given only five days to live. He makes full use of those five days by trying to get to a cure for death, which only the wealthy have access to in their mythical gated community in outer space of the future, called Elysium. In the process, he saves the entire planet from sickness and death with a programme reboot system that he got installed in his head due to reasons I don’t want to spend any more time explaining.

That is obviously not going to happen to anyone in reality, but it did get me thinking: what would you do if you have five days left to live? Especially with the recent headline-making deaths of Paul Walker and Nelson Mandela — Walker, whose death hurt because he was in the peak of life and still had more to offer the world; and Mandela, whom I felt only “Hail, life well-lived! Go in peace” for, because he had lived long, accomplished much, and now it was his time.

Well, if I knew I had only five days left, I wouldn’t be doing the stupid, frivolous things that I do everyday: whiling my time away on the internet in search of entertainment, sleeping till kingdom come, generally not being productive. I would spend my time saying goodbye. Sort out possessions to give away. Perhaps take a last minute trip to Disneyland with the money that I won’t be needing anymore after I die.

Thing is, we don’t know when our time will be up. The person who said “live each day as if it is your last” must have their affairs in constant order, because death will never be nothing but messy to me. I can’t live everyday saying goodbye — though I do hope my family and friends know I love them, in whatever limited way I can love them. (I sometimes think I still don’t fully comprehend that word.) I don’t want to give away my things yet — I’m still here and I would like to have them. I can’t take random trips to places I want to go, because who knows what unexpected situations might crop up where I’ll suddenly need that money? (There is “seizing the moment”, and then there is “not being wise”, and sometimes there is no difference at all.)

So, seeing that I probably still have a long future to live for, I will continue doing frivolous things to entertain myself in my spare time — just much less of it, I hope, because it really is self-centred and stupid. But when my time is up, I would like to have mattered to the world. To be remembered for something worthwhile. Perhaps never in the way of Nelson Mandela, because his feat of history-making is almost impossible to match up to and involves so much passion that I haven’t yet found in myself for any cause. But I would hate to merely become a statistic in this world, one of the nameless millions who live and die quietly, fulfilling their small roles in their community, doing their own thing, and then are forgotten after. Not that there’s anything wrong in that — I just want to be more than that. I want to have been alive for a good reason. And I want others to be happy that I lived.


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