Sunday, April 20, 2008

Thoughts on Getting Older

Today's my birthday. Not a particularly special one, mind you; it doesn't have a zero in the units column. I'm 37 today.

But it does mean that I am now officially in my "late thirties". And according to some definitions, this makes me "middle-aged".

By the time Jesus got to be this age, he had already been crucified, resurrected, and ascended. By the time Mozart was my age, he was already dead. By the time Einstein was my age, he'd long since developed the theory of Special Relativity, had already published major papers on Relativity, the Photoelectric Effect, and a bunch of other stuff, and had nearly finished developing General Relativity. When Napoleon was my age, he'd already given the hoi palloi "A Whiff of Grapeshot", invaded Italy twice, conquered Egypt, gotten himself crowned Emperor of France and King of Italy, and seriously ticked off the British and Prussians.

Let's see. I haven't even taken over one foreign nation yet. But I did manage to read Machiavelli and Sun Tzu. And I think I mildly annoyed a couple of Germans once....

And let's not get into the topic of People Who Were Born On This Day In History. Ugh.

Well, if you really want to feel old, here are a few little things to think about. I remember hearing a sermon at the little church we attended when we lived in Germany when I was growing up. The preacher asked all the young military guys in attendance: "How many of you are thirty-five or over?" (A smattering of hands went up.) "Well then, statistically speaking, your lives are half over."

Yeah, that's a happy thought.

Ok, let's go the other direction: cut your age in half, and think of what you were doing at that point in time. Let's see...

Thirty-seven is an odd number, so I would have been 18 and a half. My birthday is in April, so half my lifespan ago would have fallen on October 20, 1989. Ah, yes! This was my freshman year in college. I was at home from college at that exact moment, because the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake had happened just three days prior, and they had canceled classes for the remainder of the week. Oh, yes, and that was just after I'd had my solo spin-out (driving home from the now-closed campus). In world affairs, this was a few months after the Tiannamen Square massacre had occurred, and it was about the same time that the Berlin Wall came down. I remember seeing those images of jubilant crowds taking sledgehammers to the wall, on the TV in the Dining commons during my Freshman fall semester, and thinking it was noteworthy because I'd been there on an exchange trip just a few months before! I was there! I was right where those kids are now! I had no idea that this wall, that I'd touched, that looked so permanent and so forbidding, was right at the end of its lifespan!

Ah, those were heady days.

But.... But that was half a lifetime ago. Egads! Where has all the time gone? I've been an adult for half my life now. And what do I have to show for it? That is, aside from three beautiful kids, a lovely wife, a beautiful home, and several cats, who I have successfully figured out how to herd. But aside from these not-inconsiderable achievements, what have I done with my life? I haven't even discovered that cure for cancer I was going to do, or designed that airplane, or rappelled down into the crater of that volcano to take crucial readings that would be used to save the nearby town.

Ah, well. I suppose I'm fated to just be one of those normal people, who never get feted by the historians--but who nevertheless make society work, and who nevertheless mean the world to the people whom God has put in their lives. I may not be they guy who'll single-handedly turn back the invading hordes and rescue the American Way, but maybe I'll someday write something that gives him a good chuckle.

Especially if that hero is my very own son, the Happy Boy! Now there's something worth living for.

Time to go make some popcorn for my kids. ;-)

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