Friday, April 1, 2011

Our Endless Numbered Days

It's been a rough week, as a dear friend of my mother's finally succumbed to melanoma, and several people close to me are going through some very difficult times. Typically, during periods like this, I tend to write a lot, and somewhat strangely, that means I've been pretty productive at work. I've also dabbled with a screenplay I've been messing with for a number of years now. Unfortunately, I tend to mess with it during a period of melancholy. This is a problem, since I want to make the screenplay "lighter" than it currently is. It also needs to be a little longer than it is; otherwise it will play like a TV episode.

I also write somber blogs, of which this will be another.

Death is a part of life, and our tendency (rightfully) is not to like this part of life. The unfortunate thing about death is that it makes life meaningful; otherwise, living as a construct or an "activity", if you will, would be irrelevant. I've never bought the comfort of eternity; in fact, I sort of abhor the idea. An eternity of living, thinking, reacting, doing seems destined for torture. Boredom is an inevitable outcome of something that lasts forever. Even our planet will die. Its life will be much longer than yours or mine, but the fact that our planet will at some point far in the future no longer be a planet gives me a strange comfort.

This may seem strange to most people, but I find the opposite feeling stranger. Stagnancy is often received poorly. Droughts, monotone lecturers, and dynasties in sports are often ridiculed by the majority of people. (How do you like that for three wildly different examples?) With time, people tire of what always remains the same. The sheer fact that our sky is blue for our entire existence may seem to be a counterexample, but remember, we have cloudy days too. The fact that our lives, and our habitat, are dynamic gives me great joy. For the alternative is the ultimate in tedium.

I do wish my life were longer, but I certainly don't wish for it to be eternal. I am grateful for the time I have, and hope that I make the most of it. There are constant reminders I need to do so, like when a family friend passes after a brutal disease. The fragility of our existence cannot be overstated. The deaths of others, even the predictable ones, are constant reminders of our perilous existence. And it seems that with age, these reminders become more and more profound. Partly from experience, partly from the increasing realization that my own death is only approaching, never receding.

You only get one shot at this. For some, that chance is nothing more than a snapshot. For others, it is a mercifully wonderful opportunity. Its randomness, its unflinching objectivity, its cold iron fist is instructive. We can adapt to it, or succumb to it. One thing we cannot do is escape it. Our exit from it is always the same. The looming oblivion is a reminder to look in the mirror once in a while, nod silently -- maybe with a smile -- and give yourself a little extra push to make the most of your chance.