This week I celebrated my 39th trip around the sun on Spaceship Earth. There was a lot to love about this annual voyage. I did a reasonably good job of going to the gym on a regular basis. I stuck to the habit of blogging every week. I read good books and continued to love my work. I made memories I’ll clutch dearly and heard some great live music. I welcomed a new niece into our family, and (most importantly) made it through another year with relative good health for me and those I love and depend on the most. These are all blessings and they are not lost on me.
Maybe it is a byproduct of approaching middle-age, but this year I have also been putting my own mortality more and more under the microscope. The lurking shadow of death is something I feel like I have been standing in for the majority of my adult life. It first cast itself on my life when my dad died in 2004. It clouded the sky again when I lost my aunt (and a second mom) in early 2010. There have been other hits along the way…so goes existence. There is a fine line between fixating on your own mortality and embracing the realization that (literally) EVERY…MOMENT…COUNTS. I have by no means mastered it, but it factors enough into my awareness to give me pause. I think about a world without me and who that would impact. I think about what I want to leave behind in such an unexpected circumstance. I struggle to incrementally lay the groundwork so that in the event of the unexpected, I haven’t left everyone I love in a lurch.
In this regard, I feel that being a devotee of history can only help. Human struggles and atrocities across time are simultaneously horrific and nothing new. We are both a creative and violent and territorial species. We have spoken our existence and spent it out into space at the same moment we desecrate the planet that sustains us. There is nothing new under the sun, including these insights.
And yet, I read about natural disasters like Mount Saint Helens…and I watch haunting dramas about catastrophic human disasters like Chernobyl…and I realize that these have happened in my lifetime. A lifetime that has witnessed the birth of the information age and the continued subtle (and often not so subtle) extension of white supremacy in our society and institutions. A lifetime that has curiously advanced us to the highest heights while exposing us to the lowest of lows. I have no big takeaways here, aside from the fact that in the face of history, life, the universe, and everything we are all simultaneously microscopic and infinite. And in that space, death is a POWERFUL lens that can sometimes help illuminate that duality.
So, with all that editorial philosophizing out of the way, where would I like to be when June 26, 2020 rolls around and I’m (hopefully) reflecting on four decades of life on this weird and wonderful planet? I have witnessed the power of small, incremental successes building on each other into something profound, so that is the trajectory I am aiming for.
In my 39th year I hope to read more. I hope to continue to have the privilege to travel and experience new things. I hope to maintain my health and maximize my ability to do the things I love. I hope to live with greater fullness and awareness in the present moment (also known as the one moment I have any control over). I hope to hike more and see the world from the tops of mountains I haven’t yet stood upon. I hope to have my soul split open by music. I hope to make more art. I hope to laugh and enjoy those I love. I hope to be the best husband/father/brother/cousin/friend I am capable of. I hope to be a good citizen and effectively balance my individual wants against the needs of the collective good. I hope to have patience for myself and my fellow humans when I/we inevitably fail. And I hope to continue feeling the shadow of my own mortality, and make the best of things if things go sideways. It is forever frightening facing the light of that particular sun, but it also throws reality into the starkest, and most honest, relief possible.