Sunday, March 27, 2016 1:22 PM
I was braver when I was younger—partly because I didn’t know any better, but partly because I didn’t have any choice. I saw life’s objectives passing me by and I felt compelled to throw myself into the fray, dangerous or otherwise. I think that’s where we get the idea we can take ethical short-cuts along the way to our supposed goals—we start by learning to accept suicidally prohibitive risks under a cloud of inexperience and ignorance.
Like most people, I can look back in wonder that I survived my youth, that I actually found someone to share my life with, and that I truly lived to see my children grow up healthy and happy. What are the odds? Astronomical. And I know that, not only with hindsight, but with the experience of a parent who has imagined numberless worst-case scenarios every time one of my kids left my sight.
It’s that whole Schrodinger’s Cat paradox—someone who hadn’t heard of me since the day of my birth would have to figure the probabilities of someone my age being born in my year surviving and thriving sixty years later. Until they heard otherwise, there remains a possibility that I failed in some way. My present existence is a matter of chance, to a large degree—as is everyone else’s. The sudden loss of someone we know always reminds us of this and the shock of that reality, brought home, is as much a blow as the loss we feel.
Why this preoccupation with risk management? Well, I was just looking out the front screen door and I saw a robin sitting on the ground at the bottom of our front stoop. I spoke to it—that usually makes them fly off, if my appearance hasn’t already done so—but it ignored me. Kinda spooky. So I opened the door—a sure-fire bird-fleeing move if there ever was one. The darn thing turned its head upside-down, looked me in the eye, and didn’t budge an inch.
I told it, “Look, the flanking shrubberies have been used to nest before, but you get a lot of foot-traffic past here—it is our front door, after all— location, location, location. I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but you should think it over.” Then it flew away. Small animals often listen to me—I don’t know why. Maybe they like my piano-playing. I wish I could say the same for large animals.
Spring is here, the cruelest month is almost upon us. New life begins its struggle and things get hectic, wild, and spontaneous. I think the worst thing Darwin and the biologists gave us is the knowledge that evolution is only concerned with reproduction. The drones all die after having serviced their queen. The male mantis loses its head as a post-coital snack for the mother-to-be. A sixty-year-old male has about as much purpose as a fish on a bicycle—his own life may be important to him personally but Mother Nature is done with him—and she makes no bones about it.
The idea that people may live longer is hilarious to me—nothing but fear of death wrapped in science. Give me eternal youth and then maybe we can talk—although even being forever fruitful presents certain mathematical difficulties—they’re not making any more real estate, as the saying goes. Plus, parenthood, like puberty, is only glorious in retrospect—few of us would choose to repeat it. Perhaps that makes Christianity more attractive than Buddhism—with reincarnation, you do this all over again—with a Christian soul, you get to go somewhere new and different. But will they have Spring?