Friday 24 September 2010

A hundred years from now it won't matter

I am turning 58. It's not over until the fat lady sings but let's say that at this age, I get a little more reflective on the transitory nature of my existence on this planet.

A couple of years ago, an odd thought came to mind. I had been aware of the saying, "A hundred years from now, it won't matter". To clarify its meaning, I say that it refers to the fact that one hundred years from now I will be dead; my friends will be dead and my colleagues will be dead. In other words, nobody will be around to remember me and what I've done. It won't matter; I won't matter anymore.

The odd thought which had come to mind was that I no longer had to say one hundred years. At such an "advanced age" as being in my fifties, statistically I knew I would only live for probably another 30 or so years. After all, my father died just 2 days shy of 80. More than likely my genes will be like his, give or take a few years.

Consequently, I realized I could start saying, "It won't matter 50 years from now" or maybe "40 years from now". I'm sure the reader might think this is kind of maudlin or self-pitying but I assure you, I was at the moment this thought first came to me quite amused about it. My view of the world at 58 is quite different from my view at 28. It's very much that "100 years from now" versus the "50 years from now" sort of perspective.

The Meaning of Life: Children
In researching the idea of the meaning of life, I have run across numerous religious references. Yes, we return to God, personal salvation, the acceptance of Jesus Christ as your lord and saviour who will lead you into heaven. Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. As an agnostic with atheist tendencies, I'm not sure that "leap of faith" is going to cut it although [chuckles] I can't rule out that in really, really bad times I won't be dropping to my knees and praying like my life depended on it. :-)

A long time ago, I remember hearing about a relative simple idea from where many of us - most of us? - derive our personal meaning of life: our children. Out of everything we do, our children represent for most of us the one thing which will endure past our death. Some of us may be authors and have published books; some of us may be musicians and have composed music; some of us may be architects and may have built buildings and I can add painters, sculptors, builders, etc. But for the majority of us, even for the people I just listed, children are something which is part of us that will remain after we are gone. If we do nothing else; if we accomplish nothing as great as the Mona Lisa, the 9th Symphony or Notre Dame, we always have our children.

Forest E. Witcraft
This gentleman, who is a relatively unknown, was an American scholar, teacher and scout leader: 1894 - 1967. His biggest and maybe his one claim to fame, is an essay Within My Power (often misquoted and/or attributed to "anonymous") first published in the October 1950 issue of Scouting magazine (p. 2).

Within My Power

I am not a Very Important Man, as importance is commonly rated, I do not have great wealth, control a big business, or occupy a position of great honor or authority.

Yet I may someday mold destiny. For it is within my power to become the most important man in the world in the life of a boy. And every boy is a potential atom bomb in human history.

A humble citizen like myself might have been the Scoutmaster of a Troop in which an undersized unhappy Austrian lad by the name of Adolph might have found a joyous boyhood, full of the ideals of brotherhood, goodwill, and kindness. And the world would have been different.

A humble citizen like myself might have been the organizer of a Scout Troop in which a Russian boy called Joe might have learned the lessons of democratic cooperation.

These men would never have known that they had averted world tragedy, yet actually they would have been among the most important men who ever lived.

All about me are boys. They are the makers of history, the builders of tomorrow. If I can have some part in guiding them up the trails of Scouting, on to the high road of noble character and constructive citizenship, I may prove to be the most important man in their lives, the most important man in my community.

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of a boy.

I'm 58, now what?
I can imagine you finding all this odd. A mid-life crisis? A problem facing up to one's own mortality? I have had some communication with a feminist blogger about women's issues and abortion in Canada. She's in her mid-twenties, completing her university studies with her whole life ahead of her. What an amazing period of one's life to be in. Ah, to be 28 again!

I had an opportunity to discuss "being 58" with a man who turned out to be 73. His opinion? He quoted Yogi Berra, "It ain't over until it's over." Who knows what will happen between 58 and death?

Of course, to remain humorous, referring to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the “answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything” may be 42.

[chuckles] At the end of the day, you have to laugh; I have to laugh. Life is funny. It is also amazing. I... we all have to be thankful for the opportunity to experience life. It is precious.

Besides, it won't matter... ah, 30 years from now. :-)


my blog: 58 down, 23 to go

my blog: The Start of the 4th Quarter

Forest Witcraft: Within My Power

Looking for the meaning of life by James Park

Wikipedia: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Finding My Feminism by Not Guilty
A journey to discovering feminism.

my blog: Poor Me
I write about the unbelievable turn of events which dramatically changed the life of one 21 year old girl. When I heard this story, I realized I should never complain about my circumstances.


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1 comment:

BigLittleWolf said...

What a strangely bittersweet and compelling musing. (Perhaps strangely, bittersweet, and compelling only apply in my opinion, because I, too, have hit the 50s?)

I do believe that for some of us (many of us?), we have a sense of leaving a legacy through our children. But I also find it problematic that so many people have children either out of social/cultural expectation or, because if they do nothing else "significant" in their lives they feel as if having children is a way of making their mark.

Odd, really, for those of us who are far enough into that round-the-clock profession to realize that it's grueling and much is out of our control and perhaps all the parenting particulars don't matter either...

But I like what your Boy Scout said. Seriously. Because I do believe in the Butterfly Effect when it comes to human relations. We never know what small act, what willingness to act will make a difference in one life, or possibly many lives. So in that respect, perhaps everything matters.

And that includes our children and how we raise them, our friends and how we treat them, strangers and how we accord them our best selves, the words we write that influence a single hour in the isolation of another, the images we paint the bring a smile on an otherwise sorrowful day, the anonymously paid layaway gift at a department store that changes the attitude of an entire family.

Yes, Mr. Belle, I think I like that better as a philosophy. It all matters. Every damn bit of it.

Even in, dare I say it, 100 years.