Rumination on the Draining Hourglass

Blame the onrush of autumn–Halloween, the sudden cold temperatures, the yard turned orange from wind-stripped tree litter–but my thoughts have recently been bouncing to the issue of mortality. I’m not a morbid person by nature, but I certainly ponder the end often enough. Given the preponderance of auto-accident fatalities (37,000 annually in the U.S.) and mass shootings (also far too numerous), a random ‘untimely’ death feels less unlikely than it used to.

In the Arts

Artistic reminders abound. Dave Matthews’ So Damn Lucky describes a bad car accident (where the narrator disregarded his partner’s cautionary advice). The last four minutes of Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond seems like the ultimate statement on ‘moving on.’ John Lennon‘s “Watching the Wheels” always makes me think of my wife’s late brother Eric, as I heard it soon after his funeral and it made me weep. (Perhaps there was something about Lennon’s voluntary ‘quitting’ the music business, only to be tragically murdered several weeks later.) The events feel tied together.

In the film Glory, Colonel Robert Shaw is given a moment to gaze at birds flapping above the South Carolina surf. He has volunteered his 54th Regiment (Massachusetts) to charge an important Confederate fort (Wagner), even though losses will be heavy. Shaw senses he’s going to die that very evening. We aren’t told what he’s thinking–we just have to imagine it for ourselves.


One of the stark exercises journalists are asked to go through is to write their own obituary. How would you sum up your life in 400 words? Space is limited, and difficult choices have to be made.

Contrast that with Steven Dalt, the hero of F. Paul Wilson’s The Healer. Thanks to a symbiotic relationship with an amazing, all-learning creature, Dalt lives (in the story) some 1,200 years. While this longevity and his godlike ability to heal people (through knowledge and psychic abilities) sounds grand, it also comes with terrible costs. He outlives everyone he meets, including his wife and subsequent partners. In the end, given the chance to rule Humankind (being victorious over its far-away nemesis), he ponders the meaning (or meaninglessness) of existence. If you could go anywhere and do anything, what would be the point of it all? Even hedonism would get old. Wouldn’t it?

Life’s Journey

Immortality and limitless pleasure are not problems any of us have, of course. While there’s a part of me that’s fine with being an entertainer (how best to describe a writer?) that doesn’t seem like enough. Neither does making heaps of money (though this could be used in various beneficial ways).

So as I embark on a website design path, and hope for success, I’ll have my eyes on several prizes (doing solid work, employing people, fulfilling others’ wishes). When I look back, at least I can say I tried some cool things (besides raising great kids and supporting noble causes). Without better answers to the big question, these attempts seem good enough.

cloudy sunset taken from the big island of Hawaii





And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

–Time, by Pink Floyd


I have a couple irrational fears in my knapsack–plus a few that aren’t so irrational. My recent 42nd birthday was neither a panic moment nor a boot in the arse, but it did seem to herald middle age. So, again (with feeling): What have I done with my life?

Copied image of Pink Floyd in concert

Pink Floyd concert from Pulse CD booklet

When I look around my house–and it is undoubtedly messy–the first part of the answer is easy (responsible for 85% of the mess), two great kids. Happy, well-adjusted, confident and fun to be with. (My wife, Luanne, is a huge part of this, naturally.)

The second part is also easy: My books. Three down, a fourth (“Tempest Road”) planned for September release, and the fifth (“Destruction”) and sixth under way.

Justin Edison's three available books on a shelf

Justin Edison’s three available books on a shelf

For the sake of sanity, I’m bypassing the questions of value or worthwhile investment these things occupy in my world and the hours of my life. (The Churning probably took 3,000 hours, all told.) This is an issue that all artists wrestle with–unless they’re an arrogant ass–yet the answer is defiantly evasive. (I’m a storyteller. Does anyone benefit/learn/see the world differently through my work?) Suffice to say, this is what I know how to do best.

Back to that irrational fear, though. The Pink Floyd song “Time” scares me quite a bit. “Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled line.” Call it a poetic urging to do something! (For each of us, that something is different, of course.)

I’d be kidding myself if I said my time was unlimited. Statistically, the fact that I’ve personally avoided cancer and bad auto accidents and death by violence, so far, doesn’t favor my avoiding them all in the future. Factor in my upcoming work plans and, well, my window of opportunity may be slamming shut. Only so many hours in a day. The fear of not doing enough looms large, every day.

A song calls. How do I answer? One turn on the merry-go-round, after all.

B&W pic of Justin's watch showing 4:10pm







1-6-1-6 Thoughts

Today could’ve been like any other Wednesday. Paying the bills at the desk I still haven’t organized to optimum efficiency, trying to triage my to-dos before it was time to pick up my daughter from school, etc. But a strange thought occurred to me as I signed checks to American Express and Comcast, listening to Alice In Chains. I dated my checks, of course, as 1/6/16. Like any other odd date, 1-6-1-6. But I won’t be around to see another 1-6-1-6. Will I?

I suppose I could date something British-style on June 1st and come up with the same number, but that’s cheating when I have no reason to cheat. Truth be told, I was only 24 when 11/19/99 happened. I’m not a numerologist (though I like numbers) and I’m not overly suspicious. As mortality was even further away then, I took no notice of the date except that it was odd. Literally, the last date with all odd numbers that any of us would see (under the current-era system we have).

Calendar showing 1/6/16 with 'Epiphany' inadvertantly marked on the date

So, circling back to my point about today…will this be the last 1-6-1-6 I see? It’s impossible to know, just as it’s impossible to know if I’ll be alive on 1/7/17. But, like most writers, I’m less concerned with what is impossible.

Looking forward

On 1/6/2116, I’ll be 140. And about seven months. Hmm. Even for one of those nifty tortoises, that is friggin’ ancient. ‘Overus hillus supremus,’ Wily Coyote might say. Impossible? Maybe not. Isn’t the oldest person in the world in their 120s? There are still a number of people who can claim they were born when Roosevelt—Teddy, that is—was in the White House. Surely someone’s going to give Yoda a run for his money.

So what the heck will the world look like in a hundred years? I’ll go out on a limb and toss out some loose predictions. Some runner will have cracked the 3-minute mile (in a contest that captivates the globe). It’s going to happen, drawing innumerable comparisons to Roger Bannister’s 4-minute milestone. We’ll have people on Mars (retirement communities?) but won’t have light-speed engines, yet. My interpretation of Sagan and Roddenberry is that our society won’t be ready for the responsibility, anyway. If you can check the box for ‘Mass murder and war’ you can’t check the box for ‘Plays nice with extraterrestrials.’ Mutually exclusive.

Speaking of extra-terrestrials…nah, I don’t want to go down that road.

Star Trek-style transporters? Don’t think so. I wouldn’t take one, anyway. The idea of having one-third of my particles accidentally microwaved to Io (Jupiter’s volcanic moon) doesn’t appeal to me. It doesn’t call to mind a pretty picture of the other two-thirds of me arriving somewhere else, either.

Besides, if we can deconstruct matter and reconstruct it anywhere else, they’d better be using it to feed hungry people. So, Apple and Google, be warned: The corporate-responsibility eye is fixed on you even now.

The U.S.

Speaking of the United States, will we as a country still be around? I think so. I wouldn’t be shocked (or appalled) if we’d ‘ceded’ the Republic of Texas (and a bizarre quasi-satellite chunk to the north, R of T but not Texas). The possibilities are mostly humorous. Maybe Austin and Houston remain U.S. territories.

Self-driving hover cars? Yup. Damned expensive, too. But it means there will be an entire population “stuck” on the ground, happy to walk, run and bike in peace. Fuel cells will be the norm, which is great for that whole pollution problem. Though I have a feeling some botanists will determine some trees as better atmosphere-cleaners than others, so we’ll have basically four kinds of trees left.

Laser guns? Think we already have them, but DARPA doesn’t want us to know.

Iron Man suits? Think so. (See item above about mass murder and war. Would the real Tony Stark please step up to the podium?)

Circling back

So, back to me. Justin Edison at 140. It’s not going to improve my looks, for sure. Fake body, head in a glass jar? Could this longevity be achieved by less exposure to the sun (supposedly the cause of much aging)? Snickers from around the room since I live in Seattle. Less sun, bwah-ha-ha. (Truth be told, it’s 42 degrees and quite gray out there, so, yeah.) If such solarphobia is put into action, does that mean life aboard an orbital retirement center, a la Sagan? Would I want that–life at 10,560,000 feet? Not sure. I’m fond of the gravity we have now. Meals and bathroom runs are easier.

More importantly, would I want to be alive at 140? Aye, there’s the rub. As my mother-in-law is fond of reminding me, the older you get, the more friends you lose. That’s not just a senior citizen gripe, that’s legitimate. The longer we live, the higher our chances of coming down with (or experiencing) cancer, death by car accident, stroke, and so on. Without trying to sound too cynical, our robust American corporations are far more interested in smartphone advances than they are in squashing leukemia or breast cancer. Appalling but true. Maybe if they could brand it in some way: Ultra-tomoxa-slasher (sponsored by Apple’s iPhone 17L), the leukemia killer. Hmm.

But I digress. What are the chances that my wife and two kids will be alive when I’m 140. Like most any parent, I can’t imagine outliving either of my children (though, sadly, it happens all the time). C will have to be 110 and E 108. So now we’re talking three people (four with Luanne) who have to beat a lot of odds, on (or near) a planet with about 13 billion other souls, with large percentages of them clambering for food, energy, enjoyable space (that super-frozen vacuum area doesn’t count). So, I’m not saying the planet’s going to devolve into Soylent Green conditions, but it won’t all be pretty. Unless Humankind, as we know it, starts to mature faster than we age.

Guess there’s only one way to find out.