Thoughts in This Season of the Pandemic

 

Mortality has been on my mind lately. Perhaps that’s due to the constant reminders, in the ubiquitous masks that I see everywhere I go, that something deadly is in the air.

More likely, though, in these my latter days, when death awaits just down the road apiece, it’s natural for my mind to turn to thoughts of my own mortality

I can’t think of my mortality, however without being gobsmacked by the weirdness of it all. My tiny spark of consciousness — which sprang to life 82 years ago and then grew as the years have passed, touch by touch, book by book, sorrow by sorrow, and love by love — will be snuffed out forever. It seems right and proper that you would disappear. But me? That’s just too weird.

From a larger view, of course, extinction is the order of the day, the most common and natural thing in the world. Things are born, they live, and then they die. That’s the way of all flesh. From dust to dust, as the Bible tells us in its very first book.

It’s just that I seem terribly important. But the universe, in all its implausible immensity, snickers in reply. In fact, it tells me that I’m about as close to a zero as one could imagine. I will die and the universe will go about its business. And some billions of years after I die, the universe will collapse upon itself, falling down to an infinitesimally small point (the Big Crunch), then expand rapidly (the Big Bang), then collapse, then expand — forever and ever, all the while taking whatever remains of “me” back and forth with it, being rocked by the immense pulse of the universe itself. Now is that weird, or what?

So there it is: Oblivion for trillions of years before my birth, oblivion for trillions of years afterward my death —and an infinitesimally small period of consciousness in between. Each second that passes during our lifetimes, then, is precious beyond belief. (I know, I’m beginning to get repetitive, and I’m also beginning to sound like Carl Sagan. But it does boggle my mind. Total boggles.)

So those are my existential thoughts as I go about the business of living in my eighth decade. None of this worries me much. It’s all beyond my control, and I’m just along for the ride.

Postscript: My post is, of course, written from the perspective of one who doesn’t believe in supernatural religion or an afterlife. For believers, one’s consciousness goes on past death, so it’s an entirely different story, a much more rich and satisfying one. But I come from a secular family of Okies, and I’ve never been able to make that leap of faith that belief in a supernatural religion requires. So I’m left with an entirely corporeal universe that cares not for me.

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  1. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I’m in the same year of my earthly existence and I have similar thoughts, except I do subscribe to a bigger meaning. Today, as I ponder Chuck Schumer’s proposal that “climate change” should be deemed a national emergency by President Biden, I think more deeply about the conflict existing between those who love their fellow humans and those who feel the earth is more worthy. Maybe my thinking is deficient?

    • #1
  2. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I’m in the same year of my earthly existence and I have similar thoughts, except I do subscribe to a bigger meaning. Today, as I ponder Chuck Schumer’s proposal that “climate change” should be deemed a national emergency by President Biden, I think more deeply about the conflict existing between those who love their fellow humans and those who feel the earth is more worthy. Maybe my thinking is deficient?

    Yes, Bob, it is deficient.

    I kid. I’m with you. 

    • #2
  3. PHCheese Member
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Using a football analogy at 75 I am probably playing in the fourth quarter. At 82 you just heard the two minute warning. Hey a lot of games are won after the 2 minute warning. Enjoy the rest of the ride.

    • #3
  4. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Using a football analogy at 75 I am probably playing in the fourth quarter. At 82 you just heard the two minute warning. Hey a lot of games are won after the 2 minute warning. Enjoy the rest of the ride.

    More like sudden-death overtime.

    • #4
  5. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Using a football analogy at 75 I am probably playing in the fourth quarter. At 82 you just heard the two minute warning. Hey a lot of games are won after the 2 minute warning. Enjoy the rest of the ride.

    With dulled senses, I’ll do what I can. 

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    KentForrester: Each second that passes during our lifetimes, then, is precious beyond belief.

    That is a belief that the religious and non-religious can share. So even though you may feel small in the scheme of things, Kent, you’ve had the opportunity to impact greatly many, many people: friends, students, Bob and even Marie! That’s what really matters.

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Oh, I was married to a man almost exactly @kentforrester’s age. Sadly, my Mr. She is no longer with us in the earthly sense. But here’s a little lady (now a sweet and lovely seventh-grader) whose “Grampa” looms large as an exemplar of all that’s good and worthy, and whom she’ll never forget. (I’m the same WRT my own granny, whose actual time spent with me on this earth was remarkably short, but whose impact on me was immeasurable):

    One day, I hope that “Peachy” (shown above) will be writing about her own “granny” in the terms that I’ve written about mine (this, or even this), and that my worth, and my life, will be given a boost as a result.

    Hug those you love. Tell those you care for, whether or not they’re biologically related to you, that they’re important. And let the rest of it (no matter who-the-hell is President of the United States) take care of itself.

    • #7
  8. Midwest Southerner Member
    Midwest Southerner
    @MidwestSoutherner

    She (View Comment):

    Oh, I was married to a man almost exactly @kentforrester’s age. Sadly, my Mr. She is no longer with us in the earthly sense. But here’s a little lady (now a sweet and lovely seventh-grader) whose “Grampa” looms large as an exemplar of all that’s good and worthy, and whom she’ll never forget. (I’m the same WRT my own granny, whose actual time spent with me on this earth was remarkably short, but whose impact on me was immeasurable):

    One day, I hope that “Peachy” (shown above) will be writing about her own “granny” in the terms that I’ve written about mine (this, or even this), and that my worth, and my life, will be given a boost as a result.

    Hug those you love. Tell those you care for, whether or not they’re biologically related to you, that they’re important. And let the rest of it (no matter who-the-hell is President of the United States) take care of itself.

    I want to keep clicking the ‘like’ button on this. Well said, She. Well said. 

    • #8
  9. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    She (View Comment):

    Oh, I was married to a man almost exactly @kentforrester’s age. Sadly, my Mr. She is no longer with us in the earthly sense. But here’s a little lady (now a sweet and lovely seventh-grader) whose “Grampa” looms large as an exemplar of all that’s good and worthy, and whom she’ll never forget. (I’m the same WRT my own granny, whose actual time spent with me on this earth was remarkably short, but whose impact on me was immeasurable):

    One day, I hope that “Peachy” (shown above) will be writing about her own “granny” in the terms that I’ve written about mine (this, or even this), and that my worth, and my life, will be given a boost as a result.

    Hug those you love. Tell those you care for, whether or not they’re biologically related to you, that they’re important. And let the rest of it (no matter who-the-hell is President of the United States) take care of itself.

    She, what did I tell you about writing better responses than my posts? Perhaps you’ve forgotten. I told you to go over them and dumb ‘em down before you respond. By the way, that colander on your grandkid’s head tells me that she has some of your genes. 

    • #9
  10. KCVolunteer Lincoln
    KCVolunteer
    @KCVolunteer

    @kentforrester Somewhat off the point, and not to be pedantic, but check your math. At 10 you completed your first decade. At 80 your 8th. You’re now in your 9th.

    • #10
  11. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    KCVolunteer (View Comment):

    @kentforrester Somewhat off the point, and not to be pedantic, but check your math. At 10 you completed your first decade. At 80 your 8th. You’re now in your 9th.

    KC, I just made a little 10-year list, and it tells me that you’re right. That’s even better. I’m now in my 9th decade. I didn’t know I was that old. 

    • #11
  12. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    “Oblivion for trillions of year before my birth, oblivion for trillions of years afterward my death – and an infinitesimally small period of consciousness in between…”

    Please try explaining that concept to a millennial. Almost every one that I’ve interacted with believes that the universe started when they were born and will exist only as long as they are around…

    • #12
  13. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    “Oblivion for trillions of year before my birth, oblivion for trillions of years afterward my death – and an infinitesimally small period of consciousness in between…”

    Please try explaining that concept to a millennial. Almost every one that I’ve interacted with believes that the universe started when they were born and will exist only as long as they are around…

    From either of these perspectives I’d like to hear what they think is the meaning of an earthly individual’s life.

    • #13
  14. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    “Oblivion for trillions of year before my birth, oblivion for trillions of years afterward my death – and an infinitesimally small period of consciousness in between…”

    Please try explaining that concept to a millennial. Almost every one that I’ve interacted with believes that the universe started when they were born and will exist only as long as they are around…

    From either of these perspectives I’d like to hear what they think is the meaning of an earthly individual’s life.

    Apart from their latest Facebook post or tweet, I’m not sure how much you’d get…

    • #14
  15. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    This is an extraordinary season, enough to be given a moniker “The Season of the X”, where “X” is whatever made it extraordinary.

    But I’m surprised that anyone as as intelligent, intellectually honest, and educated as KentForrester would think that “X” was something as commonplace as a pandemic, especially one as relatively mild as covid, when something so much more extraordinary happened in the political domain–a catastrophe that has never been even approached in scale, direct effect, and damage to hope for the future, in human history.

    • #15
  16. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    This is an extraordinary season, enough to be given a moniker “The Season of the X”, where “X” is whatever made it extraordinary.

    But I’m surprised that anyone as as intelligent, intellectually honest, and educated as KentForrester would think that “X” was something as commonplace as a pandemic, especially one as relatively mild as covid, when something so much more extraordinary happened in the political domain–a catastrophe that has never been even approached in scale, direct effect, and damage to hope for the future, in human history.

    The pandemic played a big part in enabling these damaging political effects.

    • #16
  17. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    “Oblivion for trillions of year before my birth, oblivion for trillions of years afterward my death – and an infinitesimally small period of consciousness in between…”

    Please try explaining that concept to a millennial. Almost every one that I’ve interacted with believes that the universe started when they were born and will exist only as long as they are around…

    From either of these perspectives I’d like to hear what they think is the meaning of an earthly individual’s life.

    From both perspectives, IMO, the meaning of life is an exquisite mystery. As such, my choice is to go with the hope of a life in the hereafter, and to look forward to rejoicing at seeing those loved ones who have gone before. And if I am wrong, well, nothing has been lost then.

    • #17
  18. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    “Oblivion for trillions of year before my birth, oblivion for trillions of years afterward my death – and an infinitesimally small period of consciousness in between…”

    Please try explaining that concept to a millennial. Almost every one that I’ve interacted with believes that the universe started when they were born and will exist only as long as they are around…

    From either of these perspectives I’d like to hear what they think is the meaning of an earthly individual’s life.

    From both perspectives, IMO, the meaning of life is an exquisite mystery. As such, my choice is to go with the hope of a life in the hereafter, and to look forward to rejoicing at seeing those loved ones who have gone before. And if I am wrong, well, nothing has been lost then.

    Unassailable logic. IKYN (I kid you not)

    • #18
  19. Captain French Moderator
    Captain French
    @AlFrench

    She (View Comment):

    Oh, I was married to a man almost exactly @kentforrester’s age. Sadly, my Mr. She is no longer with us in the earthly sense. But here’s a little lady (now a sweet and lovely seventh-grader) whose “Grampa” looms large as an exemplar of all that’s good and worthy, and whom she’ll never forget. (I’m the same WRT my own granny, whose actual time spent with me on this earth was remarkably short, but whose impact on me was immeasurable):

    One day, I hope that “Peachy” (shown above) will be writing about her own “granny” in the terms that I’ve written about mine (this, or even this), and that my worth, and my life, will be given a boost as a result.

    Hug those you love. Tell those you care for, whether or not they’re biologically related to you, that they’re important. And let the rest of it (no matter who-the-hell is President of the United States) take care of itself.

    She: You – and Kent – are important to me. And, I suspect, to the rest of Ricochet.

    • #19
  20. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    “Oblivion for trillions of year before my birth, oblivion for trillions of years afterward my death – and an infinitesimally small period of consciousness in between…”

    Please try explaining that concept to a millennial. Almost every one that I’ve interacted with believes that the universe started when they were born and will exist only as long as they are around…

    From either of these perspectives I’d like to hear what they think is the meaning of an earthly individual’s life.

    From both perspectives, IMO, the meaning of life is an exquisite mystery. As such, my choice is to go with the hope of a life in the hereafter, and to look forward to rejoicing at seeing those loved ones who have gone before. And if I am wrong, well, nothing has been lost then.

    At least you fudged it. Without at least that totalitarians can do anything to anybody and justify that action as meaningless. Many Americans seem to want to go there. Worshiping “climate change” is a mere distraction.

    • #20
  21. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    This is an extraordinary season, enough to be given a moniker “The Season of the X”, where “X” is whatever made it extraordinary.

    But I’m surprised that anyone as as intelligent, intellectually honest, and educated as KentForrester would think that “X” was something as commonplace as a pandemic, especially one as relatively mild as covid, when something so much more extraordinary happened in the political domain–a catastrophe that has never been even approached in scale, direct effect, and damage to hope for the future, in human history.

    Mark, I agree with everything you’ve said here. We’ll survive the pandemic. It will pass within the year. But I’m afraid of what America will look like if the radicals can find a way to perpetuate their ideas through a weak Biden presidency. 

    • #21
  22. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    This is an extraordinary season, enough to be given a moniker “The Season of the X”, where “X” is whatever made it extraordinary.

    But I’m surprised that anyone as as intelligent, intellectually honest, and educated as KentForrester would think that “X” was something as commonplace as a pandemic, especially one as relatively mild as covid, when something so much more extraordinary happened in the political domain–a catastrophe that has never been even approached in scale, direct effect, and damage to hope for the future, in human history.

    The pandemic played a big part in enabling these damaging political effects.

     

    To believe that the pandemic played anything but an incidental role (any typical widespread serious illness or other unpleasant fact of life that came along would have suited the purpose of those who committed this unprecedented enormity) is to disagree with me about the historical fact of its ordinariness.

    I won’t argue the point

    • #22
  23. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    This is an extraordinary season, enough to be given a moniker “The Season of the X”, where “X” is whatever made it extraordinary.

    But I’m surprised that anyone as as intelligent, intellectually honest, and educated as KentForrester would think that “X” was something as commonplace as a pandemic, especially one as relatively mild as covid, when something so much more extraordinary happened in the political domain–a catastrophe that has never been even approached in scale, direct effect, and damage to hope for the future, in human history.

    The pandemic played a big part in enabling these damaging political effects.

     

    To believe that the pandemic played anything but an incidental role (any typical widespread serious illness or other unpleasant fact of life that came along would have suited the purpose of those who committed this unprecedented enormity) is to disagree with me about the historical fact of its ordinariness.

    I won’t argue the point

    I don’t disagree. Ordinary events serve the way of our Lord.

    • #23
  24. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    She, what did I tell you about writing better responses than my posts? Perhaps you’ve forgotten. I told you to go over them and dumb ‘em down before you respond. By the way, that colander on your grandkid’s head tells me that she has some of your genes.

    Thanks, and LOL. WRT the rest, you must have been a fly on the wall that day (almost ten years ago, yikes) she and I and her mother spent wandering around New York City (when such things were still allowed). Peachy was three. We spent a long weekend, with the express purpose of attending the Radio City Christmas Show. (It was spectacular.) In between times, Peachy and her mother went skating in one of the parks. (No one in their right mind would put me on a pair of skates with a blade less than 1/4″ wide. I have enough trouble staying upright and oriented on my own two feet–even when I’m sober.) We saw the Christmas exhibition and tree-lighting ceremony at the Met. And the tree in Rockefeller Center. And Peachy danced on the “Big” piano at FAO Schwarz. We stayed at a fleabag motel which was actually quite nice and (you could tell) in days of yore probably very elegant and which, (even so) was almost more than we could afford. Fortunately, there was a deli right next door, and we’d buy food there and take it up to our room.

    We had the time of our lives.

    One day, Granny spent the entire time, from wake-up until bedtime, walking around with an elaborate set of felt “reindeer antlers” on her head. Neither Peachy or her mother was the least embarrassed. And neither was I.

    It was a great conversation starter. Especially in the bar where we ended up one night, in the freezing cold and the pouring rain and sleet, and where I was introduced to what I believe is the most delicious cocktail drink in all the nine universes (like Hemingway, Jimmy Stewart, Charlie Chapling Dorothy Parker and many others, I’ve been to Harry’s Bar in Venice): the Maker’s Mark Sour.

    Memories for a lifetime. Mine, and hers.

    • #24
  25. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Using a football analogy at 75 I am probably playing in the fourth quarter. At 82 you just heard the two minute warning. Hey a lot of games are won after the 2 minute warning. Enjoy the rest of the ride.

    Often the last 2 minutes take the most time with all the timeouts and replay reviews. As long as the QB isn’t taking a knee to run out the clock you’re doing alright.

    • #25
  26. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    You describe yourself as coming back around as part of a rain cloud or something. It’s aggravating. To think that you are no more than a bunch of parts ticking away by accident…….well…it’s just aggravating. And stop using the old Okie excuse. Would it matter to you if you mattered more than that? Unless you can prove there is no God and nothing beyond, now would be the time to put in some effort into believing – even with the faith the size of a mustard seed. God could be willing to listen if you are willing to have a little faith. 

    • #26
  27. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    You describe yourself as coming back around as part of a rain cloud or something. It’s aggravating. To think that you are no more than a bunch of parts ticking away by accident…….well…it’s just aggravating.

    Why would this be aggravating? I’m genuinely curious. If it doesn’t bother Kent, why would it bother you? (Full disclosure: I’m out on the Kent Forrester end of the Faith-in-God Bell Curve.)

    • #27
  28. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    You describe yourself as coming back around as part of a rain cloud or something. It’s aggravating. To think that you are no more than a bunch of parts ticking away by accident…….well…it’s just aggravating.

    Why would this be aggravating? I’m genuinely curious. If it doesn’t bother Kent, why would it bother you? (Full disclosure: I’m out on the Kent Forrester end of the Faith-in-God Bell Curve.)

    Where’s the meaning? Why does it make any difference what some people do to other people? Are we just talking about different opinions?

    • #28
  29. Cliff Hadley Thatcher
    Cliff Hadley
    @CliffHadley

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    “Oblivion for trillions of year before my birth, oblivion for trillions of years afterward my death – and an infinitesimally small period of consciousness in between…”

    Please try explaining that concept to a millennial. Almost every one that I’ve interacted with believes that the universe started when they were born and will exist only as long as they are around…

    From either of these perspectives I’d like to hear what they think is the meaning of an earthly individual’s life.

    From both perspectives, IMO, the meaning of life is an exquisite mystery. As such, my choice is to go with the hope of a life in the hereafter, and to look forward to rejoicing at seeing those loved ones who have gone before. And if I am wrong, well, nothing has been lost then.

    Pascal’s bargain still holds.

    • #29
  30. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    You describe yourself as coming back around as part of a rain cloud or something. It’s aggravating. To think that you are no more than a bunch of parts ticking away by accident…….well…it’s just aggravating. And stop using the old Okie excuse. Would it matter to you if you mattered more than that? Unless you can prove there is no God and nothing beyond, now would be the time to put in some effort into believing – even with the faith the size of a mustard seed. God could be willing to listen if you are willing to have a little faith.

    Cat, you seem a bit put out. I’m not quite sure why. You’re aggravated because I see myself as a bunch of “parts ticking away by accident”? I don’t quite see myself that way, but if I did I don’t know why that would aggravate you.

    I didn’t use the “Okie” excuse. I suggested that I was influenced by my “secular” parents. I threw the Okie part in there only because it amused me. (I’m the only member of my family who wasn’t born in Oklahoma. My mom was on vacation in Terre Haute, Indiana, when I was born.). Why should it aggravate you that I suggested that I was influenced by my parents?

    My wife Marie is a strong church-goer and isn’t “aggravated” in the least by my understanding of the way things work. Why should you? (In fact, we have no conflict whatsoever over religion. I respect her belief and she respects my unbelief.)

    I don’t understand, Cat.

     

    • #30