Life is always full of things to do, places to go, and people to avoid. I never seem to have a moment to stop and to think, to pause and to reflect on the passage of time. I am constantly finding myself transported forward in time, as the days and weeks slip from my fingers while I am not looking. Someone wise once said: “Life is yours to waste”.
How much more time will go by before I next realize how much I have missed? When my life is over, and my breath is nearly gone; will I then understand the whole story? Will I look back upon my past -my life that I chose to live one small insignificant decision at a time, and understand that I did something meaningful? Did I raise good kids who became wise adults? Help my fellow man? Live my life well? Did I have a goal and a purpose? As the small grains of sand that are moments slip through my fingers; I wonder if they will add up to anything of value, or merely fall onto the dust pile of the ages?
A year ago, I lost my brother in a car crash, he was younger than I, and I have had the thought many times since: as my memories of him fade, and time crawls by that life and memory and time are temporary; that the powerful play goes on, and that I may contribute a verse.
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer. That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
― Walt Whitman – Leaves Of Grass
I know that no matter what happens, I too will one day die as well…
I don’t fear death, I am indifferent to life and death, I was not consulted at the beginning of life, and I won’t be at the end, so I don’t feel particularly attached to either state, but I do not want to live so that I have regrets when it comes time to die. In all estimations of average lifespan, I have about half of my life left, so I wish to life like Marcus Aurelius.
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
― Marcus Aurelius
Where do we go from here?
Anticlimax is the word I would use to describe the state of the world at the moment. As humanity as a whole we no longer really have a goal. The world has shrunken and become less interesting as more and more exploration and discovery have lessened the mystery around us, replacing full questions with half-answers.
In the time of the Reformation and the Renaissance: the intellectual pursuits were knowledge and discovery for their own sakes. In the industrial revolution that came after; thinkers were replaced with consumers, and nation-states with alliances of nations that span the globe. What used to be petty wars between small entities became global conflicts that pushed humanity to the edge of destruction, and spawned the construction of weapons that for the first time in history have the power to destroy completely their own creators.
Tell me, where do we go from here?
To the stars? Or do we turn inwards and lose ourselves in the process?
I would be happy to say we will someday have colonies on Mars and perhaps in the high cloud-tops of Venus, but I fear that we are so close to a tipping point, that a mere breath will push us over the brink into destruction. The ‘modern world’ has been saved from the edge of destruction before, can we save it from ourselves again?
My daughter Scarlette is 6, she is smart and observant, and sometimes the things she comes up with are really amazing. A few weeks ago she had a small splinter and after we removed it, we put a band-aid over the area, and Scarlette thought for a moment, and told me that she knew why band-aids worked.
I asked her to tell me why, and she said: “They work because they are like stickers”
At first I didnt realize what she meant, and then I remebered that when she was little we used to give her stickers whenever she bumped her head or scraped her knee or whatever. They were a placebo to take her mind off the pain, and so we would kiss the bump and give her a sticker to put on the sore spot. She remembered that, and deduced that band-aids were like stickers becuase stickers also worked and made her feel better.
That made me smile.
That is the cause that drives all of us; we meat-puppets, bio-piles, self-motivated obsessed carbon life forms that we are. The reason we do everything that we do is because we die. The meaning of life is that it ends.
The scrawled hearts on the park bench, the scratched names under your desk are cries from the past; reaching yearning, calling from that abyss where all things must go. We build cities and businesses, and lives because they are graffiti to the gods, and we want them to be hard to scrub off the walls.
Think about laborers under the beating sun dragging blocks for the great pyramids, think about the lives that were spent to turn great blocks of stone into a massive tomb for the ruler of a sand patch at the end of a muddy river. Thousands and thousands of hours of back breaking work, of lives spent like devalued currency, and for what? So one man could have a glorious tomb and take his riches into the after-life? Yet ten thousand, thousand men and women and children were buried in shallow graves in the sand. No embalming for them, no hope for an afterlife for them.
You think we are any different today? We work and sweat and labor to build high-rises that will be used, and then neglected, and then dilapidated, and then razed. Gone. Cities rise, cities fall, ruins fill the landscape and the flesh-toned tide of humanity rises and falls, ebbs and recoils, fades and though it is always dying, always being born, it is a continuous thread that stretches back into history, one meager life at a time.
Do you really think you are going to make your mark on the world?
Time is death, death is time. Eventually I will be gone, you will be gone, and perhaps if we are fortunate, we may be remembered by our descendants, or if we have done something famous or infamous we may be remembered long into the future, though that future does not really matter much to those still trapped like a fly in amber locked in the past.
I look at those scratchings on a park bench, and wonder at our own mortality, the great mystery that is death. What deep scratches are you trying to leave behind?
I love looking down into a valley where I can see the curve of a river, or the shape of a town, and then compare that mental image to a map of the state or country to get an idea of my size relative to the earth, or the natural formations around me.
This image was taken by an astronaut on the ISS, and shows Florida at night. I can see the shape of Cape Canaveral, and even the tiny tiny little tip of light (just below the tip of the arrow) where the bridge from Titusville to Cape Canaveral is, and where I often go to sit and watch the yachts on the Indian River. I see formations of light that I recognize as towns and areas where I have driven and walked, and ridden my bike. I can imagine how it must feel to be up in the ISS looking down and seeing familiar places, and think about the memories shared on those small specks of light. It must be an amazing feeling to be high above the earth, but close enough to recognize land-forms and visualize your place on the little blue jewel that is the earth.
I will probably never go to space, commercial space-flight is far enough out that I probably will be too old to go, but I love looking at images like this, and thinking of myself and others like little specks on a small ball of rock spinning through the cold depths of space. We are in a peculiar place, half way between the atoms and the stars, small enough to be insignificant, and yet large enough to comprehend the laws governing the heavens.