Life is Short
I am 15 ½ and can hardly wait to get my driver’s license. I can’t wait to lose my virginity. Will I ever get a college degree? Can I ever have a “professional” job? Will I ever own a house? Can I possibly be a parent? Imagine being married. How amazing it would to be to be a graduate student. Starting my own business, no longer working “for the man.” Doubtful.
Suddenly it is all in the rearview mirror. I can hardly remember the decades. I am looking forward to nothing more than an eternity of darkness.
“The cradle rocks above an abyss,
and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief
crack of light between two eternities of darkness.”
– Vladimir Nabokov
As a child, time seemed to move so slowly. Now the days rush by. Suddenly it’s Friday again. Then, boom, it’s spring again. A few short months ago, I hated the long days of darkness in December. Dark at 5:00PM and not light again until 7:00AM. How long will this darkness last? Will the light ever return? Then suddenly, it will be June 20, and the light will be robbed from us once again as we speed toward the death and decay of fall and winter. Over and over it goes.
In the supermarket, the young people ask if I want help loading the groceries into my car. Though I appreciate their kindness, I want to say, “Hey, fuck you. I can still do 30 pushups and run a mile.” At the airport body scanners, they say, “Sir, do you have any metal in your body?”
What do I leave behind? Has my life meant anything at all? Will there be a huge library building on the campus of San Francisco State University called “The Rick Gilbert Memorial Library?” Nope. After the death of my daughter, no one will remember me. My life will fade into the eternity of all the forgotten humans who went before me.
The only meaning there is, is what I have squeezed out of it. Three books. A wonderful marriage and an amazing daughter. A successful business that delivers purpose and changes a few lives for the better. Other than that, nothing. “Eternity of darkness” here I come.
Who remembers my grandparents? No one, that’s who. Who remembers yours? Did their lives matter? Not at all – only that they contributed their sperm and eggs to the next generation. A recent book, “The Selfish Gene,” suggests that our only purpose is to be hapless vehicles in the propagation of our DNA to the next generation. That is the purpose of all life on Earth.
I am thankful beyond words every day when I wake up and do not feel that sharp abdominal pain that portends the dreaded pancreatic cancer spelling the end. The memories of precious friends whose lives have been cut short by cancer and other killer illnesses are always with me. My dear friend Jim Keeffe lies in bed for almost a year now, due to a massive stroke that left him paralyzed. Why not me? Why have I dodged the Grim Reaper’s scythe? No reason. Roll of the genetic dice. Life is random, as I like to remind people who, with amazing stupidity say, “Things happen for a reason.” No, actually they don’t. No one is in charge, most especially not this non-existent Christian god.
So as I begin my eighth decade, what keeps me getting out of bed every day? Magic moments with people. Lunch with old and new friends. Sitting in a circle with a group of men sharing secrets, humor, and insights about our lives. My blog and my shows at the Dragon Theater in Redwood City.
The seasons. Spring is upon us again. Watching the blossoms pop out is such a thrill.
Like us humans with our sperm and eggs, each little leaf grows and does its job of helping the plant process light through photosynthesis so it can help produce its next generation. Then those leaves slowly turn brown, and fall to the ground. Like us contributing to and carrying on the march of the human species, until finally, we too are snuffed out.
Scientists say some time in the future the sun is going to explode. That pretty much wraps it up. Others say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Guess that would be considered “big stuff.” In the meantime, I hope you can attend my new show June 24. Save the date. More to come. I promise it will be more fun than this missive.
7 thoughts on “Life is Short”
Life is not short! Life just is! We all leave something which may or may not be remembered. As you say in the last part of your comment, one has to cherish the moment. When all is said and done it’s probably been a good ride.
Aha!…a new show on June 24. Maybe I can arrange to be in the area. Life is pretty hectic for me right now, but come June…who knows?
it’s a ferociously beautiful ride, rick, and no one, not even death, can take away the nearing 80 years you have been alive….it’s all a miracle, magic, being on this lovely little planet…..it’s sort of brief looking back, it’s uncertain looking forward, but today, this moment is your own….it’s all we ever had anyway, each moment…..the same for me, the same for us all…..let’s make it count, and be very grateful….rainbows, chocolate cake, being in love, your first kiss, your child’s smile, your creative moments….it’s all good, it’s all ok……
yes, one day it will all be completed, but not yet….
Couldn’t agree more, Jim. All we have is this moment. Cherrish it.
An unexpected advantage to becoming older…cataract surgery on both eyes. Now, for the first time since first grade, I can see into the distance without glasses of some sort. No glasses or contact lenses to clean or curse. The miracles of nature and peoples’ faces are clear. Enhanced enjoyment! Of course, reading glasses haven’t gone away…
What I’ve noticed is, time seems to have rushed by when you look backwards. “Wow, it’s been a whole year since . . .” However, as I live life day to day, looking forward to something, it does not go so fast. Getting ready for a trip, say, or an event I am planning: it seems to approach slowly, with each day of anticipation and preparation a leisurely day. “Gee, it’s still two months until . . .”
“I feel like our departure day will never arrive.” So I don’t worry about how fast it seems to have gone by looking back. I savor each day looking forward.
I love what George Burns said: “You can’t help yourself from getting older, but you can help yourself from getting old!”
That’s YOU, Rick. To the max!!!!
Some perspective from the famous philosopher, Yogi Berra:
It ain’t over until it’s over.
Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.