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?
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.
Time Is Money, Time Is Life, Therefore Money = Life
Spend your money wisely.
How much is your time worth?
Each one of us sells ourselves every working day of our lives, you sell little bits of your life to your employer every day you go to work. How much is your life worth?
The most basic economy is a barter economy, this is where I can take the milk my cow produces, (costing me lots of time and energy to prepare, care for and manage) and then barter it to you for some of the corn you grew last season, (which also cost you in time and effort) I then have what I wanted, and you have what you wanted. I don’t need to grow corn since I can turn my labor into milk from my cow, and then turn that milk into corn by trading to you. This system works only when you have something I need and I have something that you need, but what happens when you don’t need or want the milk? Perhaps you want a new rake instead?
So I take my milk down the street to the blacksmith instead and trade him the milk for the rake, and then the rake for the corn I need….. you see the problem of-course. This system has major limitations because I can never be sure I can turn my product or service into the things I need efficiently, so the market comes up with one step in-between. That step is money.
Money is simply abstract time/labor, you might not realize it, but we are still very much using the same kind of transactions as a barter economy, but what we are doing is using a sort of universal labor credit (the currency we use to make transactions) to facilitate those trades.
I still work hard to care for my dairy farm, I still expend time, energy and labor, and in return my cow gives milk which is a commodity that I can use to get other things or services with. I sell the milk to the market (anyone who wants it) and get money in return. This money is an abstract representation of my labor. It is a portion of my life and energy made into something I can hold in my hand. Money is abstract time, money is your life.
Every dollar you earn is a little bit of your life that you have sold to someone else, it is your life energy made into small paper bits that you trade with other people to get what you want, and for them to get what they want. The more money you have, the more life you have. Think about this:
If I want to build a house, I can do it 2 ways: I can either expend a great deal of time and effort and do it all myself, (very difficult in modern times because of various restrictioans, but lets imagine it on a more primitive scale) or I can have that same house built with the money I have accumulated over time, (my savings) since that money is my time turned into a tradable item, I am really just using my own time to build that house. I choose to hire a crew of workers to build it, but since they are selling me their time for bits of my own time that I have saved up, it serves the same purpose. My house gets built by the expenditure of my own life and energy.
Money is life. Perhaps not your own, since you can inherit money, or perhaps come into a windfall of wealth, but fundamentally the money in your bank account is time, and the debt you have, is a debt of time.
Spend your time wisely.