In 2001, renowned zoologist and conservationist Alan Rabinowitz was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Having spent his career until then researching wild cats around the world, he briefly considered taking a step back from his work:
“For a little while I thought, ‘OK. Well, then I'm going to try to prolong my life and I'll go in the field less. I'll stay at home more.’ I was going crazy, and I wasn't the father I wanted to be to my children.”
But he recalled one moment with his son that changed his decision:
“One day, I came out of one of the rooms of my house, and I watched my son watching a videotape of me, a show that was done years ago, called ‘Champions of the Wild,’ about me with jaguars ... It just shows how fate intervenes because that was the point at which I realized that regardless of what happened because of it, I had to live the life that defined me the best, both to myself and to my family.”
Alan Rabinowitz passed away earlier this month, 17 years after he first wrestled with whether or not to continue living the life he most loved. Had he not made the intentional decision to devote himself to his work through the end of his life, initiatives like Panthera’s jaguar corridor, which broadens conservation efforts to include changes to human landscapes, may have never come to fruition.
I was moved thinking about all that Alan Rabinowitz was able to accomplish because of the life-affirming love he felt for his work. His story reminds me of a question that physician and writer Atul Gawande wrestles with when working with his patients: What does a good day look like? Alan Rabinowitz came to learn that his “good day” included spending time with jaguars in Belize. Aretha Franklin, whose beautiful music has been floating through our office since we learned of her passing on Thursday, was singing and performing up until last November. And for still others, a good day might look like teaching piano or spending time with a good book in peace and quiet.
Wherever and whatever shape it might take, I hope that you find yourself embarking on the adventure of a good day today.
Editor, On Being Studios
P.S. — In the spirit of embracing good days, our office — and thus this newsletter — is on a short break for the last two weeks of August. The Pause will be back in your inbox on September 8.
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