“Whew. Made it. Been climbing a long time. The view sure looks pretty nice from up here though.”
“What’s that you say? “It’s all downhill from here.””
(Wiping sweat of my brow) “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“What’s that? I can’t stop here? I have to keep going?”
“Are you sure? Well, alrighty then. I guess I will start my way down the other side.”
Well after 50 years of navel gazing I have reached a conclusion. Our clock is either ticking or it has stopped. It is a simple clock. There is no pause button. No reset button. So what are we to do?
As Lewis Carroll’s King says gravely to Alice, “Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” In a nutshell there is really no other way.
Every living thing on the planet begins¬ life as a lottery winner, overcoming overwhelming odds just to get here. The chances of our existing are infinitesimal when you consider what had to happen at precisely the right moment and circumstances since the beginning of time.
As Carl Sagan said, “If you wish to make apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” Our shared beginning (big bang) predates our individual beginning (by about 13.8 billion years according to NASA, or by 6,000 years according to Mike Pence), but is nonetheless the first prerequisite. In the present, via direct and butterfly effects, we too are influencing the future, albeit in microscopically small ways. Our lifespan on this planet is again insignificant compared to the planet’s age (4.58 billion years), but we also know that our planet has dates with its own destiny (less than a billion years for life on earth) as does our sun (5 billion years until it is estimated to convert to a gas giant).
In my ongoing navel gazing quest, I think about these beginnings and endings and their significance. But the reality is likely that they don’t really matter. We are here now. At least for the time being, because as Anne Lamont observes, “100 years from now? All new people.” However, if Politifact checked Lamont’s statement they would say it was only “mostly true” as it is currently estimated that there are 450,000 people living that are over 100 years. So for accuracy’s sake the quote should probably be rewritten to read “125 years from now? All new people” as the oldest verified person to live made it to 123 years of age.
But the point is nothing lasts forever, not you or me, and the future is sketchy at best. We don’t know with certainty when our time will be up or even what is going to happen tomorrow. So in the grand scheme of things all we have for sure is the present. What I like about that is that we all share that (the present), at least until we don’t.
Well I guess I have gone on and on without saying much about my first half century. So here are a few highlights:
1) Meeting and wooing Pam. Great partner and friend on this journey.
2) Birth of Jake & Tucker. Seeing a life start that wasn’t there before is pretty great if the circumstances are right and they were.
3) Growing up. It was mostly a lot of fun. Great people. Loving family. Lucky.
4) Watching my kids grow and enjoying the people they are becoming.
5) Achievements. There have been a few that I am proud of and that made me happy. Most fade to black pretty quickly.
6) Enjoying a good story, and laughing with friends/family. Is there really anything better than that?
7) Speaking of stories. Reading. Many amazing books out there, that open up all kinds of worlds and thoughts.
And a few things I have learned so far. Actually most of what I have learned I have appropriated from others, so I will use their words to share:
1) “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” –Plato
2) “You’ll see some terrible stuff, I guess. That’s how it goes. But try to look for the good things, too. They’ll be there if you look. So watch for them.” — Going After Cacciato
3) “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” – Kurt Vonnegut
4) “It is something-it can be everything-to have found a fellow bird with whom you can sit among the rafters while the drinking and boasting and reciting and fighting go on below.” – Wallace Stegner
5) “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, “And this too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!” – Abraham Lincoln
6) “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” – Robert Frost
7) “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt
8) “Someday is now.” — Gaddy Bergmann
9) “So many books, so little time.” — Frank Zappa
10) “The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”
— Douglas Adams
11) “Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.” — Albert Einstein
12) “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
13) “Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity. . .” — Gilda Radner
14) “Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” — Kurt Vonnegut
15) “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” — Maya Angelou
16) “None but ourselves can free our minds.” — Bob Marley
17) “He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.” Coelho, Paulo
18) “Have fun storming the castle!” — William Goldman
19) “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
20) “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” – Kurt Vonnegut
21) “May you live every day of your life.” — Jonathan Swift
Well it is about time I got started on the next adventure which if following Swift’s advice begins today. It has been a lot of fun so far, and I feel fortunate/blessed to be here and traveling these paths with you, and to be sharing stories and laughing about our respective wrong turns and detours. I would like to think that I will live to be 100 and that more escapades lie in front of me than behind me. But life’s a gamble and we never know for sure what lies around the next corner, which makes it interesting. Thanks for your part in my journey, and I wish you all the best in your respective travels!