Wednesday, April 7, 2004
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
I’m forty-seven years old today. Every year, when my birthday comes around, I whine about not wanting to get older. It’s not fair, I say. I refuse to get older. Who set things up this way? But life is not fair. It’s not unfair, either. It just is. We’re born; we plod along; we die. If we’re lucky, we have fun along the way. If we’re really lucky, as I am, we get to spend our days doing exactly as we please. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to ensure that I’m not dreaming. You mean they pay me to read, write, think, and teach? I would do all but the teaching part for free. (Don’t tell the dean!) When I was twenty, I would have thought someone forty-seven years of age old. But now that I’m forty-seven, I think twenty-year olds are children. They know nothing; they’ve experienced nothing; they have no perspective on even their own small region of spacetime. And yet they think they know everything. It’s funny, really. As you age, you realize how little you know and how little you’ll ever know. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try to learn, only that you should be humble about it. Learn what you can; accept your limitations. If I’m lucky, I’ll have another thirty years in this vale of tears (to use Jeremy Bentham’s term). The first thirty years of my life seemed to take forever, probably because there were so many big events along the way. High-school graduation, the first job, the first car, college, graduation from college, law school, the bar exam, graduate school, the Ph.D. dissertation, the first job. Once I got tenure, the temporal slide began. The past ten years have gone by in a flash. My life, like Immanuel Kant’s, is filled with pleasant routines. Every day is full. I have never been bored for a minute in my life. But now that all the big events are over, there’s nothing to stop the flow of time. If twenty years ago seems like yesterday, then tomorrow is 2024 and the day after that 2044. I envy theists, for they believe that life is eternal. I’ve never believed that and couldn’t if I tried. I have a finite amount of days. I believe I value each of them more than any theist does for the simple reason that they’re finite. If you have an infinite amount of something, how valuable can it be? Water is more valuable in Arizona than in Michigan. Nor do I believe that this mundane life is preparation for something greater. It’s all I have. But it’s enough. More than enough. I’ve had a wonderful life. If I die tonight, do not mourn for me. Celebrate. Celebrate my demise if you must, but celebrate.