It seems to be an immutable law of nature: everything ages. Physicists speak of entropy; the idea that an orderly situation tends to become chaotic. A deck of cards in order of rank and suit, when tossed in the air becomes scrambled. The odds of a scrambled deck being tossed in the air and becoming ordered is very slight.
I just “celebrated” my 71st birthday. Actually, I celebrated the 70th anniversary of my day of birth, but that is nit picking. At some point in life, the “celebration” is more of a commiseration than a party.
The day before the big event, my wife and I went to visit my son, his wife, and our four-year-old boy-girl grand-twins. The twins have not quite grasped the idea of a birthday, but they enjoy parties. They are now old enough to enjoy giving presents to others and being thanked for their gift.
This morning when I checked in on Facebook, I had nearly 300 birthday greetings from my friends. I was humbled that so many people would take some of their precious time to send me a congratulatory note. I thank them very much.
There are many downsides to getting older. My knees will not let me run. If I work with my arms over my head for more than a few minutes, my shoulders ache. I need to watch my diet. I don’t sleep as well as when I was younger and I seem to require more hours of sleep.
My mind is not as sharp. I watch old movies and see faces that I recognize but I cannot put a name on the face. I use mnemonic tricks to help me recall names and places. I will go into the garage for something and emerge a few minutes later wondering why I went. I write many more reminder notes and make use of the calendar and notepad on my cell phone as backup memory.
The most serious brain related event happened about 18 months ago. For several weeks, I lost the ability to multitask. Usually, I can have several projects going on at the same time and switch between them at will. For that period of time, if I switched to another project, I could not recall what I was working on previously. Hours or days later, I would stumble across an old project and realize that it was the one I switched away from before its completion. Fortunately, the phase passed as suddenly as it started, but I see it as a harbinger of what is to come. My ghost of Christmas future is a spirit that can only focus on one task at a time.
As people age, they become more aware of the little time we have to spend with family and loved ones. Children have no concept of a future; they live life in the present. Adults see what others experience as they age and project that process onto their own life. One of the reasons why people have children is see a part of themselves with a longer future. Our children are our hope for immortality.
We remember the past, experience the present, and dream of the future. Some people dwell on the past, past mistakes, past triumphs, past happiness, and miss out on the wonders of the present. Others dream of the future, future paybacks for yesterday’s slights, futures of grandeur, or futures of power and might. These dreamers trade the reality of the present for a future that never arrives.
When faced with the darkness that comes at the end of life, some people make a deal to trade big chunks of the present for a slight chance at something other than darkness. They give up many of the pleasures of the present, spending their time hoping for a vague future, rather than enjoying the present as much as possible.
The interesting part of this is that even while they pray for an afterlife paradise, they fight to live. Though suffering from painful ailments, they are unwilling to just give up. They struggle to hold onto life as long as possible. Maybe, in their deepest heart, they know the promise of paradise is a false promise.
Preachers are deceptive about the process of dying. On the one hand, they rave about how wonderful the afterlife paradise will be, while on the other hand railing about how wrong it is to end your own life. In church, they preach the desirability of heaven in their sermons and at the end of the services ask that people pray that the sick and infirm will get well. Praying for the infirm to get well means praying they will delay their trip to heaven. Of course, if the sick get well, they can then donate more money to the church that prayed for them to stay in the hell they believe Earth to be a little longer.
If people really believe that the dead go to a better place, they should pray the infirm die peacefully. Since most people pray the infirm get better, they, too, must see the false promise of heaven.
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