Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Existentialism Anyone?

Upon arriving at work yesterday, I learned that a co-worker had passed away over the weekend. Like me, she was in her fifties and suffers from diabetes. Kinda scary. But her health woes go rather far back.

My wife Wendy and I remembered working with her a quarter century ago. She came to Wendy's bridal shower. I found a picture of her in an old wedding album.

While browsing through that album, I came across a few other wedding attendees who have passed on: three of my grandparents, my wife's brother, her mother as well, a photographer, two other co-workers, a cousin . . .

Now we're at the stage in life where our contemporaries as well as their parents are battling heart disease, cancer and other life-threatening diseases that seemed so rare and distant to us not that long ago. It's like the grim reaper is a sniper who has just started picking people off in our neighborhood.

Anyway, I wondered to Wendy recently if any statistician had ever calculated the odds of us even coming to being. I thought of that after the baby robins who grew up in a nest inside our patio (Robin Motherhood) did beat the odds, surviving a neglectful mother to fly off on their own. (I never saw them fly off but I assume it happened)

Taking the scientific theory of an evolutionary tree for each one of us, if any one of thousands of living beings down our distant ancestral line did not live to maturity--a baby biped died at birth or a lemur-like creature was swallowed by a tyrannosaurus rex--then we wouldn't be here today. Right?

So the odds of any one of us existing in time at all must be like the equivalent of winning the Powerball lotto three times in a row. I don't know; I used to ponder such imponderables when I was ten or so. Now I don't bother with such existential mysteries anymore. My brain can't handle it.

Life is not a given. But death is. The best we can do is postpone it as long as we can.


Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Dave, We are all going to die. What counts is how we lived while we had our turn here on earth. I'm in the same age group as you and it is scary watching people your own age die... Whatever became of your doctor? Did you find anyone else? Keep taking your cinnamon and eat almonds.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

Dave, I agree with you.

In the past month, I've lost an uncle, aunt, sister-in-law, and a friend to the war in Iraq. It's depressing.

Sorry to hear about your co-worker. Take care of yourself, OKAY?

4:26 PM  
Anonymous kristy said...

I'm very sorry about your friend. Yes, we must celebrate while we're here. How are you doing with your diabetes?

4:49 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Ahhhhhh Dave~~ I hope dear Wendy is the wise woman that I think she MUST be and just nods her head in total agreement as you ponder these things and keeps on planning the weeks menu in her head. ;)

I too, used to think of all the deepest unfathomable quandarys and finally finding no satisfactory answers came up with a motto that I try to live by.

You can choose to
Live your life dying~~
or die~~living.

works for me. ;)

4:52 PM  
Blogger Me said...

Now Dave I came here thinking you were going to cheer me up! Just kidding! I think about these things all the time. Life is a scary place. And so is the mirror. :)

7:06 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Let me share one of my favorite quotations with you, it echoes the thoughts of several other commentors...

"Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives. -- A. Sachs"

Death will come eventually, and probably unexpectedly, so might as well focus on living I figure. ;-)

10:12 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Hi Dave,
So the odds of any one of us existing in time at all must be like the equivalent of winning the Powerball lotto three times in a row.
That easy huh?

10:52 PM  
Blogger bornfool said...

None of us gets out of here alive, huh?
I used to ponder the improbability of our existence. That's what caused me to come to the conclusion that we aren't an evolutionary accident. We must be here for a purpose, individually and corporately. Just my opinion, of course.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

The Missus and I find each other reading the obits overy so often. We're starting to feel the aches and pains much more, but know that when we're gone, we've lived a good life. It could all end at any moment.

6:07 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Having witnessed both the best and worst of life in my nursing career...I've always felt that life is a fragile gift that most people don't embrace as much as they should.
As for death...yup, it's a given. But I also like to think it's not an "end" but simply a passing over. I'd like to postpone that part of my journey for as long as possible though. I kinda like it here...a lot.

6:13 AM  
Anonymous bonnie said...

There is a great Bikram yoga studio in Ann Arbor, Dave. Nothing beats taking yoga with one's spouse! Heal your body and your mind! Never too sick or too late to change your life with yoga!

Aaack...I typed THAT city and now I'm twitching. The lengths your friends are willing to go for you!

7:44 AM  
Blogger poopie said...

It's surreal the way someone is there one day and gone the next. Guess that's why we should keep the faith and seize the moment. ^j^

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Mike (ex scientia) said...

I stopped by via Phoenix, congrats! Do elephants jump?

5:45 PM  
Anonymous enforcer said...

sometime's in life ,you have to think about death.nature has a way of weeding out some.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Me said...

BF: Hey what about evolution being the creation process? Couldn't God have used evolution as the creation process? Just because science is being able to figure what the process may have been doesn't make it less a miracle in my opinion.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous cassie-b said...

I lost a colleague at work last week as well. He was a bit older than me, but not that much.

It's a very distressing thing to have people you know and care about cease to exist. See, I even have a hard time saying "die"

7:07 AM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

Postpone it, hell.

I am not going to die. I have decided that.

Who's to say I'm wrong?

We'll see.

5:48 PM  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

Saw your posting at FAR and commisserate.

Type I diabetic for over 20 years and have had ok control until I joined an NIH study two years ago. Now I do the hard work of maintaining my BG level and keeping it low with the least amount of insulin necessary. Hard, hard work and close monitoring with specialists, but their oversight and general rules worked very well for me and we found some things about how my body uses the various types of insulin that were not known to me.

I am in ill health for unrelated reasons... but I hope to keep diabetes sidelined as a contributor to my demise. Something *else* will have to get me without an assist from diabetes.

I hope I can last long enough for nanotech to rebuild my brain... and then finally move me off of this carbon-based substrate to something a bit more durable.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:54 AM  

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