Ted Markle: A sense of harmony
Never test another man by your own weakness.
– Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
My friend Ashok called me out of the blue. He was Christmas shopping and verging on panic.
Although it can be effectively argued that we were not put here in this world to continually worry about the overarching brevity of life and its many varied and pervasive effects on our existence, I would like to put forth several observations pertinent to the shortness of human life.
First, the duration of any given parcel of time is relative. When we realize that our lives extend to 100 years at most, that seems like a very short time. But if we were told that we had to spend ten years in prison that would appear to be an almost intolerably long time. So the ramifications of time on our existence are subject to whether or not those effects are positive or negative. Similarly, a holiday period of 2 months would probably impress us as generously long.
Second, I wish to categorize the diverse phases of life during which time seems fleeting and our activities consequently sometimes meaningless. Time can be often fleeting within the context of the transitoriness of daily life; our acts are more fleeting and perhaps disconcertingly meaningless within the context of the mortality of the individual; they are still more fleeting and meaningless within the context of the obsolescence and extinction of the human race (believed to be about one billion years away); and they are absolutely fleeting and meaningless within the context of the end of the universe itself (probably a trillion years hence).
Finally, I would like to point out the following broad and penetrating quote from the famed British philosopher Bertrand Russell (who died in 1970 at the age of 97): "That all the labour of the ages, the noon-day brightness of man's genius, and the whole temple of our creations are destined to destruction in the vast death of the solar system... all these things, if not fully certain, are yet so much beyond dispute that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand." But I think that we should not be overly pessimistic or depressed about this ultimate fate of our life and our world, because the relatively long duration of homo sapiens and the measurably hospitable home of our race are far better than no existence at all. After all, the biggest philosophical question and mystery we face is, why existence even exists--in other words, why is there something rather than nothing? It seems to me that we are quite fortunate to have a world at all as well as a reasonably orderly life, both of which, I feel, speak of the power and grandeur of a supreme being.