Thursday, December 11, 2008

what a long, strange trip it's been

Boy, it's dusty in here. Let me brush the cobwebs out of the way and start getting caught up.

It is my anniversary. By my calculations, as of today I have now been drawing breath on this magnificent planet we have the privilege of inhabiting for twenty thousand days. Please don't pull out the calculators, just accept that it's a long time.

I used to be sure that I would eventually end up being rich and famous and powerful, in other words, successful. I think probably everyone does, it's only natural to want to be as secure as possible against the travails of the world and to be recognized and esteemed by your fellow humans. As both of my readers already know, I am none of those things. Despite not achieving those goals, I'm predominantly a very happy person aside from the inevitable moments of disappointment and grief life throws everyone's way from time to time. But that isn't the sort of success our society holds dear.

Thanks to logic and the scientific method, one thing that I have learned is that if you aren't satisfied and are unhappy with your existence even though you are doing everything you have been told you should do to achieve happiness, it's time to examine your fundamental premises.

Even though I haven't achieved the things I thought would make me happy, I find that I am happy even to the extent of probably being the happiest person that I know. How can that possibly be? Well, when I examine my premises and then look at my life, I find that my happiness comes from lots of small things, tiny victories, personal accomplishments, from the thousands of things that I have been able to check off my private wish list.

For most of my life, I have had two overwhelming passions, music and astronomy. Against all odds, I have managed to become extremely proficient at both of them simultaneously. I have a deep understanding of music that few people on the planet will ever experience or even realize is possible. I have developed impressive skill at playing the instrument of my choice and I have written some, but not enough, music that brings me tears of joy when I hear it. I have played Franz Liszt's pianoforte. I have an exceptional collection of most of the instruments that I have ever loved and lusted after that few other people can match. I have played all over the eastern half of the United States and count many famous musicians among my friends. I have performed a concert of my own music from atop the wing of a space shuttle. I have been a high-ranking staff member in a world-famous museum. I have met and conversed with half of the humans who have walked on the Moon. I have touched, held, and even sat inside of spacecraft and top-secret aircraft. I have been given a VIP tour of NASA headquarters and dined with astronauts. I have held a piece of the Moon and a piece of Mars. I have been invited to become a college professor despite having no experience at it and enjoyed fourteen years of being a respected and popular educator as a result. I know a great deal about the history of the world, of human society, of biology, paleontology, and archaeology. I understand the nature of the atom, of how atoms and molecules interact and why, of what gravity is, and how relativity works. I have read a significant percentage of the great literature of the English language. I have visited four continents, dozens of countries, most of the states, and seen historic monuments and museums all over the world. I have been touched by a Pope. I have crossed the ocean on one of the last of the ocean liners back when that was the way to travel. I have seen a total eclipse and a couple of bright comets. I have seen civilians travel in space, planets of other stars discovered, learned that dinosaurs still live, that bacteria millions of years old can be revived, and I know how the universe was born and what happened to it as it grew.

I have also seen a president felled by an assassin's bullet, another deposed, and a third virtually destroy my country. I have seen an American city grievously injured in an act of violence, I have lived under the threat of nuclear immolation, and I have seen two American spacecraft snuffed out with many brave explorers in fiery moments of tragedy. I have known bleak sadness, numbing heartbreak, and the pain of the loss of loved ones of many species, and I have known ecstatic love and towering passion. Life sucks and life is wonderful. That is the secret.

It has been an extraordinary twenty thousand days. Strangely enough, at a time of life when many people are fading away, looking towards their end, and beginning the inevitable decay all living things eventually suffer, I find that I am healthy and strong and more enthusiastic about my tomorrows than I have ever been.

I think I've been, despite my previous understandings of what it consisted of, successful. Successful beyond my wildest dreams. I still learn things every week that I've wondered about all my life, I still have new frontiers and exciting challenges and opportunities ahead of me. I have wonderful and treasured friends that accept me and who I trust and care deeply about. If that isn't true success, I don't know what is.

I can't wait to see what my next twenty thousand days brings.


Blogger Ronni said...

Bravo! Applause, applause...

I hope you'll take us both with you on your next 20,000 days!

1:38 AM  

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