"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

Preparing myself, my family and my friends for the Fourth Turning.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Morning Fiftyness

"Well I went to the doctor
"I said I'm feeling kinda rough".
"Lemme break it to you son:
your shit's fucked up."

                    Warren Zevon, My Shit's Fucked Up


Today, sometime around 8 am local time, I completed my fifty-first orbit around the star that irradiates our planet, thus giving rise to all life upon it.  I preferred being fifty: it has a panache that fifty-one lacks.  Aging is, among other things, irritating.

I typically spend my birthdays doing not much that is noticeable to the world - certainly I don't celebrate, except for milestone birthdays (the last two were 50 and 21, the next will be 75).  The plan for today is not much different - the wife and I plan to camp later, but during the day I'll do the normal things that need doing, like laundry and house cleaning.  I may build the second wood rack I have planned.

Inside, though, I will be hard at work reflecting on the past year, and the entirety of my life, knowing that I am fully embarked on the unavoidable journey through my fifties and onward, a journey whose far shore will be but a brief resting place, before, coin in hand, I join Charon for the final metaphorical journey.

Not being religious I am not buoyed by anticipation of an afterlife, where a magical being in a magical land will grant me, and everyone else there, everything we could ever want, endlessly, for all eternity or until the universe dies its heat death, or re-collapses, whichever comes first.  (What happens after that I do not know.  Perhaps in heaven there are no laws of physics.)

I'm aware instead that dissolution is my fate - someday the atoms that comprise my being will disassociate, perhaps slowly, perhaps quickly, but they nonetheless will. This temporary aggregation of atoms, mostly water, much of it not even me but other organisms along for the ride, will cease to be self animated.  Pieces of me will drift off and lie still, or be carried on the wind, or within water, or will be acquired by other organisms more needful of them at that moment than I.  Associated standing wave patterns and quantum effects that underpin and drive biological processes will long since have halted, and with them activity and thought.

But now, at this moment, I exist: I am a collection of particles and stored energy, all of which were once part of some other living thing that I devoured, or were acquired as raw materials directly from the environment.  My environment and I routinely exchange bits of ourselves, and over time I've acquired more particles from other creatures and my environment than other creatures and my environment have acquired from me.  It's how things are done, in this meat-based existence.  

My particles act together in a synchronized fashion, animated by quantum forces, motivated jointly by the unconscious biological drive to make copies of me, and, ostensibly, by thought.  However, lots of life can do this and not require thought to do so.  Spiders, for example, are just little biological robots following the imperatives programmed into their genetic code.  Lacking appropriate hardware, they lack the capacity for thought.  Choice, debates about free will, considerations of an afterlife, Donald Trump - these are not part of the spider's existence.  Even plants do this 'living' thing, acquiring particles with which to assemble and produce copies of themselves, with no need for thought. 

I am in this manner unspecial.

Sub-collections of my particles interact in peculiar ways: employing advanced quantum processes linked to and synchronized with specific biological activities that permit extremely rapid mathematical and spatial calculations intended to aid physical navigation through space and time, thus assisting my ongoing acquisition of particles and energy.  But again, lots of creatures do this - birds catch insects mid-flight, their actions defined by the directing function of their central nervous system which ensures their beak is both spatially and temporally co-located with the target insect in order to satrify the need to acquire more particles for themselves.

I remain unspecial.

Somehow, sub-processes executed by certain sub-collections drive the higher-level, executive functions that we call consciousness and thought.  This is where the story gets interesting.  Right now, at this moment, in addition to existing as a unique, coherent, animated and purposeful collection of particles I also exist as as a continuous self-referring concept that believes it monitors and controls the entire collection.  Cogito, ergo sum indeed.

(It's not at all clear that this is so, but that's a complicated topic for another time.  What is clear is that most other living things of which we're aware cannot do this thing, and none to our level.)

Now I'm kinda special.

So today I use this specialness to consider (as I do upon every annual anniversary of the emergence of my collection of particles from the collection of particles that, together with another collection, copied parts of themselves and made me) the thought that at some point, the continuous self-referring concept that I call me will no longer be able to execute continuous self-reference, because underlying quantum and biological processes will have ceased to function.

I am halfway or more, through this journey we call life.  How best to live what's left?

"I said, "My shit's fucked up?
Well I don't see how"
He said, "The shit that used to work
It won't work now."

I had a dream
Ah shucks, oh well
Now it's all fucked up
It's shot to hell.

Yeah, yeah, my shit's fucked up
It has to happen to the best of us
The rich folks suffer like the rest of us
It'll happen to you.

That Amazing Grace
Sort of passed you by
You wake up every day
Hang your head and cry.

Yeah you're going to die
But you just can't quit.
Let me break it on down
That's some fucked up shit.

Yeah my shit's fucked up.
Fucked up."

All the more reason to live an examined life.


  1. "the area dividing the brain and the soul
    is affected in many ways by
    experience —
    some lose all mind and become soul:
    some lose all soul and become mind:
    some lose both and become:
    accepted." - Charles Bukowski

    happy birthday.

    1. Thanks for the quote. Maybe soon, I'll lose my mind. Will I be better then?

      Love ya man.

    2. "If you're losing your soul and you know it, then you've still got a soul left to lose." - Bukowski

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.