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A keen athlete in his late forties, philosophy professor Kevin Aho hadn't given much thought to his own mortality, until he suffered a sudden heart attack that left him fighting for his life. Confronted with death for the first time, he realized that the things he thought gave his life meaning, such as his independence or his ability to plan his own future, were in tatters.
Aho turned to those thinkers who have reflected deeply on the meaning of life and the anxiety of living when every heartbeat might be your last: the existentialists. Armed with insights from the likes of Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Nietzsche, and de Beauvoir, he found new meaning and comfort in a view of life that strives for authenticity and accepts aging and death as part of what makes life worthwhile. Existentialism asks us to face the frailty of our existence and to live with a sense of urgency and gratitude toward its manifold beauties. It is only then that we can be released from patterns of self-deception and begin to appreciate what truly matters in our fleeting, precious lives.