Friday, 27 February 2015

Thirty Nine More Summers

This morning, I woke up to the sad news that Leonard Nimoy (aka Mr Spock from Star Trek) had died at the age of 83.  I was saddened for the loss of one of the characters with whom I had grown up with, and whose spats with Captain Kirk I had enjoyed to watch play out on screen and whose underlying love and respect for each other was always evident, even in their darkest moments.  Although deeply saddened by the news, it was another thought that occurred to me, the realisation of which shocked me rather suddenly and more deeply.

The thought that came unbidden to my mind was that if I also am to live to the age of 83 years, I will see only another 39 more summers.  Old age and death have always seemed so remote to my thinking.  I never ponder them since they are the inevitability of life and there is nothing that I can do about either of them.  With each key stroke on my keyboard, I have aged.  With each key stroke on my keyboard, I have moved inexorably towards my end.  Everyday, we live out our lives and at the end of each, we are sure that we have many more ahead of us, many more opportunities to change things, to do all of those things that we wish to do, to fulfill our dreams.  "I'll do it tomorrow."  "I'll get around to it next week."  "I'll do that next year."  I too have these thoughts.  I am sure every single one of us has them for one reason or another.  There is after all, only so much that can be achieved within a day.

Each day of our lives is already filled with so much that we have to accomplish in order to survive.  School, university, and work take up huge amounts of our time for those of us not yet retired.  That's 33% of our time allocated at least and if not more.  Sleep accounts for around another 33% of our time.  Now we are left with about 30% of 'free time'.  But is that time free?  We have to eat.  In order to eat we must prepare food.  In order to prepare food we must go and purchase some groceries.  There's administration of our lives to deal with too - paying bills and banking, checking insurance policies, and so on.  Slowly, the amount of free time ebbs away.  This is before we factor in any time for checking Facebook, Twitter and other social media, before we catch up on the news and perhaps the weather.  And if you happen to be a parent...  Well, my mind boggles with that one! How do we fit it all in?  When do we find the time for ourselves?  Where are the quiet moments of contemplation and thought, for reflective thinking and for making sense of everything that is going on?  And whilst you are thinking this, a nagging thought sits in your head, "I should call Mum and Dad."

Time is not on our side.  It marches on, flowing like an uncontrolled torrent whose waters we can try to slow down and dam, but the attempt to do so is futile.  Eventually the dam will break and the water will flow on towards its final destination, where the river is lost within the ocean.  Our days are numbered.  Those of us who are fortunate enough to live without illness or disease, we think of ourselves as immortal and untouched, but we are not.  From the moment we come into this world in a physical state, we begin the slow process of decay. The cycle of life must be completed.  I recall at this moment a line from Mr Keating in the movie Dead Poets Society, "We are food for worms boys."  Our time of life will inevitably cease and we will indeed go back to the earth where our bodies will nourish the soil and become new life.

I feel that there is a paradox that haunts human life.  When we are in the midst of it, we feel that we are immortal, that we will go on forever, that we will always exist, even though we know that logically this cannot be the case.  We know that life must come to an end but it is always the end of a different life, not our own and in this way of thinking, perhaps we sidestep the inevitable - that we too must one day cease to exist.  There is a part of me that is thinking as I write this, that maybe this way of thinking is driven by the fact that our spirit and essence of life knows a different story.  That the body my die but the soul lives on eternal?  Or perhaps we have tricked ourselves and conjured up another Santa Claus because we cannot face the thought that this is really it?  Whatever your thoughts on life, death and the after-life, there is one inescapable thing: the body, as a living organism cannot survive indefinitely.  Our days are numbered.  How then should we live out those days?  

Mr Spock was famous for his saying, "Live long and prosper."  I'd like to add something to this because I feel it is not complete.  It lacks a kind of definition.  What does he mean by prosper?  For me, to prosper in life is to live happily, a deep rooted, in the guts of your stomach and a fluttering of the heart kind of happy.  Prosperity is not economic and monetary success.  I thought about this yesterday actually and how I often say that we should look on the world through the eyes of a child.  When I thought about that yesterday, I changed my mind about it.  I would rather look upon the world as a dog sees it.  A dog lives their life in the moment; they find joys in the simplest of pleasures, they make the most of what they have, when they have it; they wear their heart on their sleeve for everyone to see - their emotions are plainly and sometimes painfully evident; and a dog craves love and gives love unconditionally.  That is the way to live - isn't it?

So then, if I am to enjoy (for summer is my time of great enjoyment) only another 39 summers, I had better make the most of every single one.  If I am going to suck all of the marrow out of life (thank you Henry Thoreau) then I should do so today, starting right now.  If there is something that you have planned to do, begin it today.  Make a start.  I can assure you that once the movement begins, it will inevitably gather pace and momentum.  Please don't leave important things undone.  Say I love you. Offer a smile to the world. Make a positive difference.  Our time may be short, but by golly, we can make it such a time as to be worthy of being remembered, a time that will echo across eternity to the furthest star of the universe.  Live long and prosper by all means but just make sure that along the way you love, that the love starts with you, and you wag your tail as much as you darn well can for as long as you are able.