As I sit here and type this on a 30 year old computer, I am reminded very strongly about how different computers were in 1982.
With its clunky keyboard, floppy disk drive, and tiny monitor, typing on this old Apple IIe really brings me back, which is exactly why I’m doing this little experiment with it in the first place.
No cut and paste, no autosave, no mouse.
But what it really makes me think about is how time flies.
It seems like no time has passed at all since I was a teenager typing away on this very same model computer up in the attic of my parents’ home back in New Jersey.
And, yet, it also seems like a lifetime away; another life entirely, in fact.
The other day someone told me how a friend of his recently nursed his wife through a battle with cancer just after he retired from his job.
Unfortunately, she didn’t make it, and, three months later, he died too. He had only been retired for a year.
Here’s the sequence that went through my mind about this man that I didn’t know: First, he was born, then he had a childhood, then he got married, started a family, and worked hard for the next thirty or forty years. Then, he lost his wife and his life ended shortly thereafter.
Whew! My question at the time was this: If this man were to have been shown his life in a flash before he was born, would he have accepted the journey? Was the joy worth the pain?
We’ll never know the answer and that’s not the point anyway.
What we do know, though, is that our lives go by very quickly; I often say, “Life is what happens when we’re not paying attention.”
One day, we’re children in an 8mm film, frolicking along or opening presents with our parents in the background looking young and strong.
The next day, we’re the ones doing the filming.
And the day after that, everyone in the movie is gone.
In the big picture, the past becomes the present and the present has already passed. It all becomes one big blur.
No matter what we might accomplish in this lifetime, or not, one day we’ll all be gone.
In this big picture, a few things always come to the foreground: First, there’s no use being too afraid or too anxious all the time, since the biggest problem we all face, our ephemeral nature, is unsolvable anyway.
And second, none of us is too big, too important, too rich, or too smart to ignore the big picture. Time came before and will go beyond any one of us.
If you don’t have a ‘big picture philosophy’, I suggest you develop one.
Whether it’s your belief in God and the Bible, or your plan for leaving a personal legacy, or maybe just simply living a life that goes even a little bit beyond yourself, you need to have a perspective that is larger than you and your everyday habits and worries.
Otherwise, you’d have fallen into one of life’s biggest traps; the one that convinces you that your past doesn’t matter and that your future is unlimited.
Instead, the past lives on and moves forward within us, like the memories and emotions I experience as I type these words into this ancient computer. And, as for the future, it goes beyond any one of us.
Later on today, I’ll transport these words, slowly and painfully through an audio cable(!)–and through time itself–to my modern laptop, then through the airwaves to my iPad for final editing, integration with art, and posting to the internet.
This blog post will have started out on thirty year old equipment, then, it will have been sent forward as sound waves through a cable to a modern day machine, and, finally, delivered through the air to you, as you sit and read it in the present.
The past will have conjoined with the present, just as this day has passed into the past. It’s really all just one big blur of time, both before and beyond both me and you. And it’s ours to participate in, while we still can.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand a Few Things First)