Monday, March 2, 2009

It's my birthday!

Today is my birthday. I was born on this day in 1938, at approximately 4 o’clock in the morning. That’s seventy-one years and about five hours ago. Time flies. Or does it?

Time actually does nothing. It doesn’t fly, it doesn’t pass, it doesn’t heal, and we know it doesn’t wait. So what the heck good is it?

Man invented the concept of time in an effort to order his chaotic world. A world in which light turned to darkness and back again to light, trees turned from green to varying shades of yellow and orange and brown and then became leafless, only to return to their state of greenness once again, a whole myriad of flora and fauna went through similar and even more bizarre changes, all beyond the understanding of earth’s early human inhabitants. And most unsettling of all, humans noticed changes in themselves; their hair turned from black to grey or white, backs became stooped, hands and fingers crooked, eyes filmy and sight blurred, and then, one day, they could not stand, or eat, or breathe and a darkness fell that never again turned to light. Why?

Here’s what I will tell you – it isn’t “getting old” that ultimately kills us. What kills us are the collective changes that occur in our body’s systems; the wear and tear on bones that make up our skeletal system, the deterioration of our musculature system due to changes in our hormonal balance as the need for reproductive behavior declines, our skin wearing out as the elements take their toll, our arteries filling with plaque, causing our circulatory system to work harder to distribute blood, raising our blood pressure, and so on, and on, until…well, you know. And that’s why.

The fact of our human mortality is the single most compelling reason for our invention of, and subsequent misunderstanding of time. It isn’t time -- “getting old” -- that kills us. Aging is a construct (a psychological invention) used to explain the phenomena that in fact, occur to cause our physical death. Because life is so important to us, we have invented a system to gauge when it is likely to cease. Ultimately the system progressed from a vague idea of, “Many moons has he served the tribe,” to, “The chief is eighty years old,” where we compare the occurrence of the earth’s position relative to the sun with a mechanical device we call a clock. This is psychological time. It has no intrinsic existence. It exists only in our thoughts.

Because we are so inextricably tied to the concept of time, which we ourselves invented, and because we see the passing of time as so central to our own existence, we cannot think of a universe without time, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.”

But the universe was here before us and it will be here after us, and although there are those who believe in a beginning of time -- a “Creation” for the religious, and a “Big Bang” for cosmologists, there is really no reason to believe that the universe, apart from our own existence, had a beginning, or will have an end.

See "The Universe and all that Stuff" for a related post.


vex said...

Happy Birthday, Richard!



Richard Badalamente said...

Thanks Vex -- how're you doing?

vex said...

Oops, I again forgot to subscribe to follow-up comments, so I didn't see that you'd replied.

Please forgive my absent-mindedness!

I'm doing fairly well, thanks. Hope you enjoyed your birthday, did you do anything fun?

vex said...

OK, forgot again!

(It should be defaulted to "E-mail follow-up comments" for brain-deficient people like me!)


badmomgoodmom said...

You forgot to mention that our body loses efficiency in lymphocyte regulation in the bone marrow. This increases the incidence of allergies, inflammation and lymphoma as we age.

The rate at which this happens vary with genetic susceptibility and genetic markers have been identified. One size does not fit all in health care and retirement policy.