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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Thousands of Days

I was on the subway with a tourist, and when the subway went above ground someone pointed out some famous New York City landmarks.  Her eyes went wide like saucers.  "Wow, it's the Statue of Liberty!" "Wow, it's the Brooklyn Bridge!"

Afterwards, I was thinking about how religious people talk about all the miracles done by an invisible G-d.  The human body is complicated.  Stars and planets are pretty cool.  When you're young everything has that new-car shine to it, but when you get older it's only natural to take these things for granted.

A new sports bar opened up a few blocks from my house.  My brother's getting married on Wednesday.  What about the rest of us who don't have any red-letter events going on in our lives?

A friend posted on Facebook that we're getting an extra leap second this weekend.  He linked to a funny article about all the things that you could do in a second.  

I could be traveling 792 feet per second if I were on an airplane.  But seriously, who hops on a plane for the sole purpose of going fast and with no interest in their destination at all?
Bypasses are devices that allow some people to dash from point A to point B very fast while other people dash from point B to point A very fast. People living at point C, being a point directly in between, are often given to wonder what's so great about point A that so many people from point B are so keen to get there, and what's so great about point B that so many people from point A are so keen to get there.
-- Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
And then I thought about the episode "Orpheus 3.3" of "21 Jump Street," where Officer Hanson is obsessed with the surveillance videotape of his girlfriend's killing, thinking he could have saved her if he would have done something different.
Officer Judy Hoffs: How many times have you seen this? 
Officer Tom Hanson: 122 times... but I don't watch the whole tape. I watch 3.3 seconds. 3.3 seconds that slipped through my fingers. 3.3 seconds where I could've done a thousand different things. But I didn't move. Do you know how many things you can do in 3.3 seconds? You can take off your shoes, pop a beer, and shoot someone in 3.3 seconds. 
The play "Rent" deals a lot with issues of death and mortality, and the importance of making the most of the time we have.  One of my favorite lines is: "Why are entire years strewn on the cutting-room floor of memory when single frames of one magic night forever flicker in close-up on the 3D IMAX of my mind?"

In the "Stargate" episode "Brief Candle," the main characters are trapped on a world where everyone ages so quickly that the typical lifespan is only a few months.
O'Neill: I've learned so much from you. I'll treasure every day of my life because of you. 
Kynthia: For thousands of days? 
O'Neill: I sure hope so. 
Kynthia: That is almost forever. 
O'Neill: Almost. 
I still don't have any simple answers, but I think I've clarified the question.  How do you live as an adult without losing the curiosity of a child? 

One thing all these examples have in common is that the character in question learns what he needs through relationships, not by sitting alone and thinking about his problems.  For those who want something concrete and tangible to do, I recommend reading "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes, or listening to "Least Complicated," by Indigo Girls.  For something more emotional, you can read the messages of love sent by people who died on September 11, 2001.  For something transcendentally beautiful, there is a Haagen Dazs commercial.  If you're a scientist or an atheist, try Brian Greene's op-ed in "The New York Times."

Whatever you end up doing, when you're done, find someone who is important to you and tell them that you care about them.  And then go out and have fun.  You probably still have thousands of days left.  Make the most of them.