—From CB—

We’re all going to die. It can’t be avoided. Jump ahead a hundred years, and we’ll all (pretty much) be dead. Maybe a few survivors, hooked up with tubes, in wheelchairs and walkers, waiting out a few more years, but otherwise that’s it. That was your life. That’s all she wrote.

To me, the message from the Eden myth is simple: we have the knowledge without the immortality. If God intended that we stay as stupid as our cats, He shouldn’t have planted the tree. Indeed we’ve been punished for humankind’s sin of getting smart. And surely it’s an Original Sin: who else knows that they’re going to die?

Not that all God’s creatures don’t try. The most basic instinct is survival. Even the scuttling cockroach wants to live; even the tiny ant running across my keyboard, one of a million in his colony, who demonstrates not the slightest notion of selfhood but tries to avoid my thumb. So is it any wonder that we, taking nine months for our birth, many hours to come down the tunnel, years to learn to talk and to cross the street and to pee in a can, would want to last as many years as we could?

I know the feeling of imminent death. I’m 82. I have a hernia. I have higher blood pressure than I ought to have. I have balance problems: I’ve had falls and a bruised tailbone that limits me. I’ve had many friends who are already dead: some sudden, some long-term. And I have the age-old agenda in my head: clean up your campsite before you leave.

Nevertheless, I live day to day. I try to put words together. I try to be useful to my kin. I try to live forever.

Though I won’t. I see others trying to stay alive symbolically. They seek a national reputation. They seek power. They seek a billion bucks, hopeful that someone that fat, that affluent, that stuffed, cannot die. They seek membership in a group so righteous and powerful that every ant in the anthill will live. But guess what? You’re all gonna die.

Is that a downer? Is truth a downer? I have no idea if it’s wise to tell this to our kids when they’re young. But before they get to the stage of making major decisions, they ought to know: This is your life. You get only one. With luck, you’re going to get old, and then you’re going to die. You can take care of your health, but you never know. If your life has meaning, it’s whatever you make of it.

I can’t help thinking that might be useful to humankind.


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