Scientists estimate that the the universe began about 14 billion years ago with the big bang theory. The theory goes that a relatively small clump of matter suddenly appeared on the scene, and then exploded and sent forth smaller pieces of matter that evolved into the infinite number of planets and other material that comprise the universe as we know it today. Which is kind of ridiculous. I mean, did this chunk of matter suddenly appear out of nowhere into what was then a total void. Where did it come from? In actuality, the universe has always existed, perhaps in a different arrangement of matter, but nevertheless, it has always been there. The universe is infinite, a very difficult concept for people to grasp, but there is no beginning or end to it. It’s not as if you were traveling in a space ship and suddenly came upon a sign that said : “Universe Ends in Two Miles.” Upon traveling those next 2 miles there would be a big chain link fence with another sign saying: “End of Universe.” Like space, time is also infinite, in that there always has and will be time. I believe time, past, present and future, occurs simultaneously, but we can only see the present in the dimension that we currently occupy. Perhaps when we enter a different dimension, more fondly known as the afterlife, time will have a whole different meaning and we will be able to see time as circular, rather than linear, as we mortals currently view it. In any event, time and space are inexorably linked, as Einstein and other scientists have pointed out, but we can only see both in limited contexts.
Which is a rather long way around of getting to the topic at hand, which is the problem with life as we know it on this planet. That problem is that we begin to age from the moment we’re born, and then, eventually die. Of course, most people fight and strive to stay alive as long as possible. But even under the best of circumstances, even if you live to be 100 or older, (less than one percent of the population does), it’s still only the tiniest sliver of time compared to the age of the universe. After that you have to spend like forever, better known as eternity, in the next dimension. Or perhaps there is no next dimension, and what you get in this world is all she wrote. I suspect that most people harbor such thoughts no matter what their religious beliefs may be, and that’s why they strive so hard to stay alive as long as possible. When one is young and in good health, such ruminations are seldom are entertained. But when you get to be my age, they seem to crop up more often. As I’ve written before, the young person looks down the road of life, and unless they’ve inherited some serious genetic defect, that road looks sunny and clear as a bell. But when you get to my age and look down that same road, you can see Death flitting among the bushes, or peaking out from behind a tree. It’s like the lines I quoted in my last entry from the poem by John Donne: “Ask not for whom the bells toll. They toll for thee.” Donne had worked in a church whose bells would slowly peal whenever a church member died, so the poem’s meaning is quite clear.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression that I fixate on this. I’m generally in good health, but I do have a few problems, the biggest one being my rotten teeth. I spend almost as much time at the dentist as I do at home. I was there a couple of days ago for work on a tooth implant. My gums are still sore. Because of all the work I’ve had done, implants, bridges, crowns, fillings, etc., my wife says I have the equivalent of a Mercedes in my mouth. Probably more like a Rolls Royce. I also have glaucoma, treatable with prescription eye drops, but requiring periodic visits to the eye doctor. And lets not forget deafness, requiring hearing aids that are virtually useless in a noisy environment. This requires periodic visits to the hearing aids people to fine tune the devices. Thus, you get a picture of what you have to look forward to if you make it to old age. Nevertheless, one of my daughters says, I should count my blessings that I don’t have worse problems, which is true.
As you know, I live in a large seniors community, and hardly a day goes by when an ambulance blaring its sirens doesn’t go tearing through the streets. Another senior is about to be rushed to the hospital, or perhaps, is already dead. Over the 12 years that we’ve lived here, we’ve known a fair amount of people that have died, usually of cancer, and often before their time. Others we know are battling seriously debilitating diseases. One individual we know has a condition where the fluid that continually bathes the brain is not draining away as it should. This required the insertion of a stunt to properly drain this fluid, but still leaves him weak with serious disability. Still he manages to keep positive and in good spirits. Another woman is battling serious breast cancer, but also maintains good spirits. A lot better spirit than I would have under similar circumstances. In any event, being a senior means learning about a whole slew of health issues, many of which you had never previously heard of. Many seniors make so many doctors visits that they often become better diagnosticians than most doctors. One’s health also often comes down to genetic makeup. We know seniors that will make it well into their nineties or older, because they inherited what I call caste-iron genes. I try to compensate for a poor genetic inheritance by going to the gym every day, although I often feel, “lots of luck with that.”
In any event, it helps when things get especially tough or dispiriting, to remember what a tiny amount of time we spend in this form on this planet. Perhaps in comparison, when we do cross over to the other side, it will make the pain and suffering we’ve had to endure in this life form, seem pretty trivial and insignificant. Which, in the end, would the best perspective we can have on life.