“Giving is not giving back. There is no quid pro quo. Giving is self-fulfillment.” — Eugene Lang, educator and founder, I Have a Dream Foundation
My right eye has a new lens.
It’s remarkable. My new lens is “multifocal” — if all goes well, everything between maybe 18 inches and infinite distance will be in clear focus.
It’s something of a miracle, an acquaintance remarked to me when I explained the possibilities.
It isn’t, though, unless you think “miracle” is synonymous with hard work, patience, brilliant insights, and more hard work. But as most people equate miracles with divine intervention, my new lens is the opposite of miraculous.
As I write these words I’ve been waiting for two weeks for clear focus to show up. I’m supposed to wait patiently another one to two weeks for “all goes well” to arrive.
Which might not seem like a big deal, but at my age, the ratio of days to wait to how many days I have left is a significant metric that magnifies the impact of any and all delays in gratification. And that also includes the gratification I get from seeing whatever I invest my efforts in come to fruition.
Some days, this disparity between the time to fruition and the time until I’m just another resting Norwegian Blue Parrot (lovely plumage!) makes it hard to see the point of getting up in the morning to make the effort.
I have, for example, been writing KJR and its InfoWorld-hosted predecessor for 23 years now. And while 25 years seems like a more logical (and factorable) retirement target, it’s inescapable that no matter how many more years I plan to write these missives, those I’ve already written greatly outnumber those I’ve yet to post.
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Aging, as someone once said, ain’t for wimps. Well, as quite a few people once said as it turns out. Some of its inconveniences, like my late and unlamented cataracts, along with various friends’, relatives’, and acquaintances’ cartilage-challenged hips and knees, have non-miraculous solutions.
Many more gerontological inconveniences have, in contrast, solutions whose clinical availability might not show up on a schedule I find convenient, with “convenient” defined as “still among the living.” They might be the result of stem cell research, telomere extension techniques, or the ability to upload ourselves into the as-yet-to-be-invented “Internet of Souls” (IoS) which will, of course, rely on the APIs for AWS’s soon-to-be-released Personality as a Service (PEaaS) specification.
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My younger self couldn’t wait for the future to get here. With its flying cars … or, better, personal levitation devices … wearable computers, teleportation, and warp-drive-based galactic exploration, the future was an inestimably cool place to be.
The young are notoriously impatient. We who geeze have reason to be.
A Greek proverb I’m fond of has it that, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
I’m all for planting metaphorical trees. And yet, mostly, I’m more interested in planting whatever it is I plant to the extent I get to see how it all comes out, whatever “it” is. That calls for assuming I’ll be around for an indefinite time to come.
Many of my co-aging acquaintances tell me, when the subject comes up, that “I don’t want to live to be 100.” When I’m in the mood to irritate people — a mood whose frequency seems to be increasing — I ask what age they do want to live to be.
There’s rarely a number. What it usually turns out to mean is that there’s a level of deterioration where, we expect, catabolism will exceed anabolism to the point that metabolism seems decreasingly worthwhile.
Remove deterioration from the equation and the conversation changes.
I do imagine there might come an age where nothing new is going to happen — when all experiences are repetitions, and boredom replaces today’s disadvantages of having more and more years behind me than in front.
But not just yet. And I’m not yet quite benevolent enough that the ethereal rewards of tree-planting are sufficient to motivate my best efforts.
So for the time being I’m willing to make the assumption that I’ll live to see how it all comes out — that I will, with all odds to the contrary, turn out to be eternal.
It’s a reassuring assumption no matter how preposterous.
And if it turns out this was the wrong assumption to make, I don’t see much of a downside to making it.
It’s nice to be eternal. And if I’m just deluding myself, I hope you’ll have the good manners to not tell me.
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Have a cheerful Chanukwansamas or whatever other seasonal tidings work better for you.
And a seasonal suggestion: Give your friends the gift of Keep the Joint Running. Now, for a limited time only, subscriptions are available for the low, low price of free.
How limited? Until I run out of topics to write about or subscribers to read what I’ve written. Feel free to suggest topics you’d like to see covered KJR style. I’m always in need.
I’m taking the rest of the year off. See you in 2020. Which, I hope, in addition to being a year, also turns out to be my newfound visual acuity.