Sunday, September 27, 2009

A New Life

The summer has left us all nicely fried in Scottsdale and as it cools down to 100, we try to ignore the Christmas aisle at Home Depot and enjoy the sultry fall weather. Even here, though, the change of seasons makes us stop and ponder the passing of time. Autumn, as the penultimate season of the year is, of course, a metaphor for the coming end of things. Next comes winter and death.

For many of us, this turning of the seasons might seem to parallel our own passage into oblivion. And for those of us moving farther and farther away from the beginnings of our own individual trajectories, it is easy to get maudlin over the passage of time. The death of aged parents, aunts, uncles, and friends only serves to underscore how fast the sand is flowing in the hourglass of life.

Tom's father died a few weeks ago and his dear friend and colleague, Larry Celaya, died a week later. Today, in fact, Tom read that the one of the leading religious futurists, Richard Kirby had also passed away. We are reminded, through such deaths close by, of our own mortality and our own ongoing process of aging.

But over the summer, Tom and I began to play with a new paradigm. It all started with some articles on the increase in the number of centenarians worldwide. According to one by Ed Yong in The New Scientist, for example, this is the fastest-growing demographic in much of the developed world. In fact, thanks to the aging baby-boomers, by 2030 there will be about a million worldwide! That should give us pause. What if we DON'T die soon? How will we spend twenty, thirty, or forty more fruitful years?

At twenty we all had the feeling of a long life stretching ahead of us. There were a myriad of possibilities. We could go in any number of directions. But there were distractions and surprises for which we were unprepared. Most of us had no money. Then life began to throw repsonsibilities at almost faster than we could adapt to them. Before we knew it we were long past the first flush of adulthood. Some of us resigned ourselves to the feeling of being trapped. This is it. This is my life.

But, instead of thinking of life after mid century as the time we wind down and slowly roll downhill towards the grave, Tom and I started thinking that we should conceptualize the future as a new beginning of a new life - a whole new life. At twenty we figured we might have about forty good years. Well, many of us will likely have another thirty or forty years - perhaps even more as bio-medical advances pick up the pace. And while many of us have been hit by the recession/depression, we sure as hell have more resources than we did at twenty.

All of us have imagined the hypothetical scenario of going back to our youth and being able to do it over again. All of us have said, too, given such a chance, "if I knew then what I know now..." We have, of course, considered this a fanciful and impossible scenario - we can't go back and start over.

Well, it is true we cannot go back, but we can start over. And we can start over knowing a lot more than we did the first time around.

Let's then imagine that we are at the beginning of a second adult life. Let's reflect upon what we have learned in our previous life - of the wisdom we have accumulated - and seriously consider what we wish to take with us and what we wish to leave behind as we set sail on this new life.

This is not something to be accomplished overnight. We should give ourselves time to ponder the question and time to work out the details. The important thing, though, is to fight against the mentality in our culture that tells us we are "over the hill" at forty and have "one foot in the grave" at sixty. These are outdated notions. And if there are things you "have always wanted to do but never had the time," now is the time to realize that you just may have an entire second lifetime.

It is time to start thinking about your new life.


Tom will be continuing his popular philosophy series at Rio Salado Lifelong Learning Center this fall and winter. The first presentation of the fall takes place this Wednesday, September 30, from 10:00-12:00. Tom will be giving part 3 of his lecture on Mind, Self, and Consciousness. Details and map can be found on the sidebar under upcoming events.

1 comment:

  1. My sympathy to Tom. I know what it's like losing a parent,having lost both of mine. Of course we never "lose" them, they are simply somewhere else waiting for us.
    I like to call menopause a mid-life evaluation. Perhaps even a re-evaluation. It ain't over till it's over, and we must do the best we can for future generations while we are still here.