Listen to the audio version:
Riker: I’m going to miss this ship. She went before her time.
Picard: Someone once told me that time is a predator that stalks us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment, …because they’ll never come again. …What we leave behind is not as important as how we lived. …After all, Number One, we’re only mortal.
Riker: Speak for yourself, sir. I plan to live forever.
Yesterday at 2:44am, I turned 29 years old. On the eve of my life approaching three decades of existence, it’s not uncommon to adopt a more pensive mood as one contemplates a shade of mortality. Gone are the care-free years when getting older was always a positive development, and few were the concerns of the inevitability of death. And yet, what I now lack in youthful ignorance is compensated for by the awareness and conscious consideration of the passage of time.
Being of the belief that there is no afterlife to speak of (besides the lives that others have after me), the countdown to individual annihilation could seem rather bleak. But to me, it’s an acute understanding of the fragile condition of our existence. A hyper-sensitivity to the discrete timeline of one’s visit on this mortal coil. And most importantly, it is an omnipresent awareness of how valuable our time is, and an encouragement to soak up the wealth of experiences available to us.
As many who are more eloquent with words and deeper in thought have remarked, our ability (or at least tendency) to appreciate something is dependent upon our relative time to appreciate it. Scarcity of resources, as any economist would tell you, is one of the fundamental characteristics that gives value to something. The scarcer the resource, the higher value it fetches. So when life is ticking by with a clear dénouement in sight in old age, the value of life quickly increases. But at an early age when the limit of life is far away, it holds less value or importance.
Having an understanding that there is no infinite afterlife for me, there is no unending amortization schedule for the value of my life. The numbers for me are very clear. And with the hope that I can avoid some of the chronological ignorance that youthful exuberance bestows upon me, maybe I can extract a little more value from time before scarcity inevitably foists the realization onto me. Perhaps even the simple cliché of “stop and smell the roses” can aid in the pursuit of extracting more of the marrow of life during one’s brief tenure on Earth.
What I do not intend for this retrospective to be is a nihilistic dismissal of life due to there being no supernatural end goal for eternal bliss. I gain deeply meaningful and satisfying thoughts from the perspective of a finite existence. Making the most of one’s time is of paramount importance due its limits. Relativity is really the name of the game, and the sweet nectar of existence is made sweeter in large part by the comparison to non-existence.
In the introduction of this blog entry in which Star Trek’s Captain Picard and Commander Riker reflect upon the passage of time, Picard sees time as a companion whose presence reminds us that the experiences we have are fleeting and must be cherished while they still can. With time as my companion, I see the future with a splash of cold water to the face:
wake up and smell the roses.