Monday, July 20, 2009

Upon reaching age 60

I was born sixty years ago today. During my lifetime I have seen some remarkable things: the assination of a much loved president, the enactment of law affording the full rights of citizenship to minorities, and on my birthday in 1969, the first human being set foot on the Moon.

I have often said that best times Man ever has, or ever will have, will have happened during my generation. I still believe that is true. When I look back, I am amazed at how I got here and almost cannot fathom where we are going. My daughters are grown adults and some have brought an even newer generation into the world. My life has been quite remarkable.

I watch on TV the passing of many people who have featured prominently in my life; among these most assuredly, the recent death of Walter Cronkite. His commentary provided the footnotes for the events that defined my generation. I usually do not grieve for celebrities, but I am humbled and saddened by his death. And it reminds me that my life too is finite.

From time to time I think of the film Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut’s story of Billy Pilgrim darting back and forth freely in time; observing his youth, his aging and even his own death. In reality, it would seem we only have the “now” moment, yet I find myself like Billy darting through time re-experiencing moments of my life.

I have come to two conclusions as I reflect on my life so far: One, that I have been extremely lucky; and two, I have gotten everything I have wished for. Everything! As lives go, you can’t do better than that.

I have a defective heart valve which is schedule to be replaced in the near future. If it is successful, I may live a few more years. If the odds are wrong, at some unexpected moment, I might slip into unconsciousness and die; but even should this occur I will be lucky, it will be a quick and painless death.

I am reminded of my friend Jerry Andrus for whom I had the privilege to have crafted a documentary in his memory. The film about Jerry was completed about the time he died. In it we closed with his words: “We’re each a unique mixture of sub-atomic particles. And so the only thing that’s left other than our remains is the effect that we might have had on other people or maybe will have on other people.” In this sense only do we truly see life beyond the grave.

As you walk through the ways of the world, let your feel fall, if you will, on the pathways of wonder. Walk on a trail in the valley of wonder. And there stands that huge tree that started from a tiny seed as even did you and I. Let us remember well that we do live among that wonder and we should cherish it forever until the very day we die. ~ Jerry Andrus


Rachel said...

Happy Birthday! And good luck for Your upcoming surgery.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Thank you!! :)

kara said...

awww dad. i loves ye.

but i'm not letting your movie lists go near the grandkids for 16 years minimum

Robert the Skeptic said...

Really... You don't think "The Lyd" wouldn't take something away from seeing "Apocalypse Now"?

Mary Witzl said...

Happy 60th Birthday, Robert.

I've always loved that line of P J O'Rourke's -- that anyone who thinks the past was better than now ought to stop and consider dentistry. Personally, I'm thrilled to live in a time when defective heart valves -- and so much more -- can be repaired.

Rachel Noy said...

A belated happy birthday to you. I watched your trailers, as I said in a reply on my magic post, thanks for enlightening me to him. Your Vegas trip sounded amazing.

All the best to you!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Indeed, had I been born 100 years ago I would be dead already. Reminds me of the joke (which PJ O'Rourke would appreciate):

Q: How many Republicans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two - one to change the light bulb and another to reminisce about how good the old one was.

Rachel N:
Glad you enjoyed the trailer - I had several people come up to me after the Vegas showing and thank me for making the documentary. The man was indeed well loved.

theWaif said...

Only if you follow-up with Full Metal Jacket.

Poignant post. Looking forward to celebrating those 60 years with you this Saturday. Hey, that's already 10 more than Michael Jackson got.