Though I can’t remember the source, I’ve admire whoever it was who asked, “how is it that people who long for immortality are so easily bored on a rainy Sunday afternoon?”
I do think that individual immortality would be more of a curse than a blessing. (Can you imagine watching those you love grow old and die while you stay young…time after time after time?) Were I God (a somewhat unlikely possibility) I would grant to every human the ability to live in good health until they were willing to let go of life—until life, in effect, became for him or her one long rainy Sunday afternoon.
One of the fascinations of life is the number of unanswered questions it holds. Were we to live for 1,000 years, we would/could never know all the answers. But when it comes to the experiences and potential experiences any human can have in the course of life, there are practical limits. Time inevitably changes everyone. Goals are reached, views, needs, and wants change. As one speaking from the vantage point of having lived 80 years (to me, having lived 80 years and being 80 are two very different things), I am very well aware that my own priorities and the emphases I place upon them have shifted.
Were I to know I could live as long as I wanted to, I would undoubtedly rush to set ambitious new goals, to explore and pursue new long-term interests. Of course I still currently have a number of unreached goals and unfulfilled interests and hopes. But—often despite myself—I must acknowledge the practical fact that I have many more years behind me than I have ahead (I don’t know of anyone who has lived to be 160, Methuselah notwithstanding), and that is a source of great regret for me.
Among the changes that the passage of time have made in me are what I consider important. I see ads on TV for new cars and fancy luxury apartments and furniture—things the younger me would ache to possess, and realize that my interest in accumulating things just to accumulate them has pretty much passed. I still want things, of course, but many of those things after which I…lusted?…no longer hold the same importance they once did, partly because I have at one time or another attained then.
Again, were I to know that I had unlimited time, I’d undoubtedly develop a list of new objectives and wants, but it is unlikely they would be the same as those I’ve already dealt with in one form or another. And therein lies another basic fact of life: the learning curve. Old people walk very carefully on ice…partly out of awareness that they could break a bone should they fall, but mainly because, over the course of their lives, they have fallen on ice often enough to be extremely wary of doing it again. They have learned that particular lesson.
Things that are exciting to us when we are children, or teenagers, or young adults, become less so the more they are repeated…a classic example of the “been there, done that” principle. The older one gets, the more things fall under this heading. It’s yet another rather perverse fact of life that if we enjoy something, we want to repeat the experience, and the more we repeat the experience, the more commonplace it becomes.
Of course age does not dampen or lessen one’s basic interests—in my case, writing. And no matter what one’s age may be, the world is full of wonderful new things to do and explore, if we make the effort.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).