It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m a bit of a fatalist. Since I was a child, I knew I was going to die. Since I was a teen, I came to be comfortable with the fact and tried to live each day so that if I died tomorrow, I’d have little in the way of regret. As an adult, I figured that once I reach the average natural lifespan of a human (about 43 years), then however more I lived was gravy.
I mention this because my brother commented that, despite my readiness to slough off this mortal coil, I’d probably outlive everyone; i.e. everyone else who is more fearful of their own lack of continued living. I found that to be a rather depressing prospect. I mean, on my mom’s side of the family, sudden heart attacks at a relatively young age are far from uncommon. On my dad’s side…I’m pretty sure he was the longest lived male at 74 years. So actuarially, the numbers would indicate that I have about 25 years left…maybe a couple more. I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to it.
By and large, I don’t find life extraordinarily difficult, but neither do I generally find it particularly pleasant…more of something to endure. True, cleaving to Mary* and the girls has lifted my outlook a bit. I’d love to see the adventures the girls are going to make of their lives, and I’m sort of curious to see the women the kidlings are going to become. They’ve made me smile more than I think I did in all of the life I had before I knew them.
In a way, while my brother’s comment is one of optimism: that I’d get to see the girls through most of their lives, it’s also a downer to think that the Universe (joker that it is) would see to it that I’d outlive them. Doesn’t seem right, somehow…especially since I’ve assured them that I’d be there to great them in the afterwhenwhere.
Sometimes I see polls that asked people if they’d want to know when they’d die, if it were possible to know that with relative certainty. The vast majority don’t want to know. I do. It would make preparations so much easier if I’d gotten to read the mortality spoiler beforehand.
I’m sort of amused by many of the religious types who think that there’s this paradise after death, and yet they cling so tightly to their lives. This tells me than many don’t truly have faith, as they fear death…not just the unknown, not the dying process, but death.
Death doesn’t worry me as there’s nothing I can do about it. If we die dead, i.e. there is nothing after our corporeal life, then I’ll never know it…I’ll have ceased to exist (which is sad…for then what’s the point of having to do the life thing in the first place?). If there is an afterlife, something I choose to accept as likely (since, if I’m wrong, I won’t know it), then I figure that on balance, my life has enough useful credits should there be a judgement. Since I’ve faithed into the fate camp, I know that there is nothing I could have done or can do to alter any outcome and thus a judgement is moot. (All-knowing uber-being(s), if extant, by definition of the words, preclude free will.)
People seem amazed that I have only one true regret, something I can’t take back, and that was something that happened when I was a child. So many people look back on their lives and have events where they honestly think, “If only”, or “If I could have changed…”. I’ve found the Law to be a great guiding force: Be good to others; try to not be afraid. With that as my bible, and owning the choices I’ve made, it’s not be too difficult to avoid those lapses that grow into regret.
Death is inevitable. It’s just part of life. It was guaranteed the moment I was at a state where I could transition from being alive to being dead. Even as I grow older, I’m still comfortable with it. Oh…I’d be a little sad about some outcomes I’d like to witness, but in the grand scheme of things I know that it doesn’t matter much. Talk like that frightens some people. Me…I look out onto the universe and I see just how small I am. If there is a being a couple of billion light years away, ey isn’t going to be much concerned about the life I lived or that I passed. Nor should they.
Still…it would be cool to think that it did. There is the idea that a single death diminishes all of us. Given how many deaths there have been, and how many are yet to come, I’m not sure how great that diminishment could be, but it’s a lovely thought. It would mean that come the time of our death, we mattered. That’s really what it’s all about: a desire to know that, in some small way, we mattered.
When you don’t have children of your own, you tend to not have that easy legacy that others have to point to that shows some degree of mattering. You compensate by being a friend, a teacher, and an example. Even a hermit can bring great meaning to their lives by doing something, anything, that isn’t solely self-serving. Perhaps it’s making sure that a stray dog was kept fed and watered, or that a small neglected stream is husbanded through the pressures of civilization. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Even not smashing a spider only because it’s a spider has meaning. If you seek not to wantonly destroy and give even a little aid to another when warranted, then your life had meaning. It mattered.
So yes, I do endure life. Each day that I live is one less that I’ll have to live later. But, each day that I do live is one where I try, in even a small way, to matter. I don’t think that we can ask more of ourselves than that. As I tell people: do one thing at a time, do it well, and then move on. When that last day does come, I won’t have to fear that I didn’t live my life well. Sure, I’ll likely not be all gung-ho about the transition (I’m not great with changes to the unknown), but I’m not going to fear it. It will simply be the time to move on.