The Meaning Of Life
You know what really sucks (so far, anyway) about getting old?
LOOKING FOR THE DAMN MEANING!
I’m at the last third of my life.
The first third went by very very slowly. As a kid, a year took forever. Not only was the school day endless, but so was each wonderful summer day.
The second third, however, flew by. Each day was over so quickly I can hardly separate one day from another. In great part that is due to the fact that, at work. one day mostly was exactly like the others. But even summers and vacations and weekends sped past me in one big thirty-three year blur.
Now that I am retired, I figure it can go either way. Without the monotonous job and fewer home responsibilities, my days might slow down again, and I will again have the long idyllic days of childhood. But on the other hand, maybe the swift days of the more recent past were not the result of a boring job, but of the aging process itself – that the older you get, the faster your days go. And if that is true, I am facing a very rapid old age.
And so – What does it all mean?
I was never much for the “Meaning of Life” and all that philosophical shit. But now that I am old, and well…
In truth I am desperate to know that individual life – my individual life – matters.
I spent about twenty years in school. I believe in knowledge. I believe in Knowledge for Knowledge’s sake alone. But does it really MEAN anything? I took courses from Life Drawing to Human Resource Management. From Bookkeeping to Beekeeping. From Investment Finance to Mark Twain to Sign Language. I think it might have made a difference in my own life if I had never studied French or Poetry or Typing. But how about Plane Geometry? In high school, I liked Plane Geometry, and I was really good at it. But I can’t imagine I would have been a different person had I not taken it. Especially because now I don’t remember a thing about it. But I suppose the sum of all that knowledge – whether I ever found a practical application or not – makes me who I am. And I suppose it taught me to think. To consider new stuff.
Then there’s Work. I worked for more than 40 years. Mostly I liked it. Not every minute of course. Not even every year. As a kid, I worked for the phone company (boring). At a company that made sandwiches for vending machines (tasty). At the local amusement park (terrible work but very cute boys). I also had a few jobs here and there in retail (I’m great at running a cash register, but it is dangerous for me to be anywhere near cool merchandise, as I will spend my whole paycheck.) As an adult, I worked mostly in Accounting and Finance. An English Major in college, it surprised me very much that I had a knack for budgets and cash management. After 10 years in Health Care, I rose up the ranks in a male-dominated industry (ESPN), but burned out after 15 years, and spent the next 10 at a mail-order nursery (White Flower Farm).
I had a good measure of success, and those jobs compensated me quite nicely. I was a terrible manager of people, but a good manager of information. I was well-enough liked.
But here’s the thing that haunts me.
I was a fine accountant, but what difference does that make to the world?
If I had been a nurse (which I actually attempted for a short while), I might have helped someone back to health. If I had been a teacher (which I actually attempted for a short while), I might have filled a little mind with wondrous ideas.
But debits and credits? Imagine 20 years from now, when someone at ESPN stumbles upon an old filing cabinet and pulls out some wrinkled yellowed paper. Do you think this person will gaze at my work and say, “Wow. That is a hell of a present-value analysis!”
So I have spent forty years paying my bills with work that has no long-term meaning.
So What? That’s true of almost everyone. What we do is just not important. No one will remember us in a hundred years. Still, we carry on.
But again – it haunts me.
Because I want to do something important. I want to be remembered.
I have no children. No grandchildren. I have many sweet relatives, but the memory of my life will fade for them quickly. I love them and they love me, but I am on the periphery of their lives. Children make your life important. But I have none.
I write though. I leave my words behind. Many of my words – most of my words – are trivial. But a couple here and there …I hope a few of my words are lovely.
And I have many years left, I hope, to write more words.
Perhaps something I write will be found in some old file someday.
And someone will say, “This is beautiful.”
So I carry on.