Life Comes At You Fast

Some junior and senior undergraduate students of mine were discussing how fast the semester had been going and how their four-years of college seem to be flying by. I wandered into this conversation by accident and was asked by one of them if time keeps passing more rapidly as one gets older. It's one of those phenomena that only experience can validate.

"Unfortunately, yes!" I replied. "And there is only one way you can slow it down." The students perked up with interest as they awaited my secret for slowing down the passage of time. "Marry someone you hate." I responded.

The students laughed, but upon reflection they saw the truth in what I said. A person's perception of the passage of time is a function of how involved that person is with life, and how one relates to the activities being pursued. A watch pot never boils, while joy seems momentary. And inside every older person there is a young person wondering what the hell happened.

The actual passage of time is, of course relatively constant. At least that's what clocks seem to indicate, although sometimes I believe they zip ahead when I'm not looking. Perhaps we need to look more. Life seems to happen when we are not paying attention.

This brings one to the uncomfortable dilemma of choosing activities that are exciting, absorbing, and perceptually life shortening, or leading a more mundane, uninteresting life that seems to last a lot longer. Life is really a series of tradeoffs. We have the not-so-pleasant "chores" that seem to take forever, and then the adventures, thrills, and laughs that end all too soon. But the philosopher would ask, "What is the purpose of life?"

I don't really believe there is one answer for that question. Perhaps there is no answer and life really doesn't have a purpose. From a biological standpoint, life happens. There is an instinct to survive, so the fundamental purpose of life may be to maintain it. Humans try to give human life a higher meaning because we can. It's the curse of having a more evolved brain. We hate unanswered questions.

We seek meaningful purpose for our lives, either through religious believes, causes, self-dedication to family, service to others, or whatever we decide is right for us. The reason there have been so many different religious beliefs throughout the history of mankind, is that mankind is uncomfortable with life and death just happening without a higher purpose. The problem is that the more purpose we give it, the faster our lives seem to go. And the more we hate to see it end.

My recommendation is that you stop worrying about the purpose of life, which probably doesn't exist, and stop to smell the roses while you can. And please don't tell me about your past lives and your hopes for your next one, as some religions and suicide bombers believe. If you think you are going to move on to a higher plain after this life, I suggest you arrange to be buried on a hill.