November 2, 2021

Two "Laws" to Consider


Recently, I read two "laws," philosophical phrases that pack a lot of truth into just a few words. The first is known as Stein's Law-"Things that can't go on forever don't." The second is referred to as Davies's Corollary-"Things that can't go on forever can go on much longer than you think." What a clever way to summarize the human condition, and to highlight the cause of so many of our problems. 

I am looking at these phrases from a few different perspectives. The first is the sadness we all feel when something really good ends. Think about a memorable experience from your childhood. Maybe the whole family was together for a picnic, everyone laughing, playing and enjoying each other's company. Or, that Christmas morning when the one toy you had hoped would be under the tree, was.

Your first date might qualify. Maybe it was homecoming, or with a group of friends. Possibly it was your first solo date with someone; no parents or wise-cracking friends anywhere around. Nerves, terror, anticipation, giddiness, and then what you had dreamed about for weeks comes to an end. A profound mixture of joy, relief, and sadness wash over you. Of course, if that first date did not go as you has dreamed it would, then a welcome release at the end: "Who knew three hours could last so long?"

Anything that we engage in, has a conclusion. Whatever the experience or feeling, good or not-so-good, has an end. 

The second statement is also very true. In this case, it seems that this truism is more often the case when we are in a not-so-pleasant situation. I remember quite vividly feeling several times, over a three-month period, that Army basic training would never end. It did and I survived; I am pretty sure I actually matured and grew more self-confidence during that cold and wet time at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri. But, those three months looked endless as I stepped off that bus.

Covid and all its ramifications certainly have seemed to go on much longer than I expected. Who would have thought we would be within 4 months of registering two years of this assault. Things that can't go on forever sometimes seem like they can.

I think how we respond to either of these phrases tells us a lot about ourselves. When we were younger didn't we live as if things do go on forever? The future is simply too far ahead to worry. 

Age has a habit of bringing the last part of that first statement into focus. Things in our life that we always assume will continue, don't. A relationship falters, a job ends, illness and a body not built to last let us down. Years of denying poor health and personal maintenance practices catch up with us.

Yet, as an optimist, I accept the first truism but absolutely believe in the second. Yes, my life has an expiration date. Unlike a carton of milk, I have no idea when that is, but I know it will happen.

in the meantime, I lean into the idea that my future will last longer than I know. I will take that extra time to explore what being a human means, love passionately and fully, spread joy, and relish the wonder of human existence.

When my future finally ends, I won't look back in regret that I spent whatever time I am given worrying about that invisible expiration date. 

14 comments:

  1. I try every day to remind myself today could be my last. It's not easy, given how much of life is about tomorrow. Then, in thinking about tomorrow, I find myself looking at the past. Why? Because there's nowhere else to look.

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  2. Love the Goodly's Corollary. 😄.
    Actually, this "Aha!" Moment occurred just recently…I AM seventy-two and time is dwindling and can end sooner then I think! I’ve been helping my husband deal with health issues and helping him regain some independence in his life. Thank you for this thoughtful post that reminds me to appreciate ALL the time we have, expending Love, Energy, and Hope into our lives.

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    1. You are very welcome, Charlene. I am 72 and still feel rather spry, at least most days. Even though I know the clock is ticking closer to the end of my time, I do my darnest to not let that determine how how I live.

      Caring for a loved one is one of the necessities of a full life. I wish all the best to you and your husband.

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  3. Time seems to speed up as we get older, doesn't it? I ignore the clock; it's the only way to live at our age.

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    1. Yes time seems to dislike us more seasoned folk. Each Saturday I could swear it was Monday just a day or two ago.

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  4. I love roller coasters. I am both terrified when I ride one and yet climb off thrilled by the experience and usually want to ride it again (not always though!). Somewhere along the way, a roller coaster became my personal metaphor for life. It begins slowly, climbing, taking its time getting to to the top, and I sort of want what's coming to begin but am also a little frightened by it as well. Then the drop and twists and turns of adult life begin.

    Some are fun and thrilling and I hope for more; others leave my stomach in my shoes and I although hope that was the only one of those although I know there will be more, some when I least expect them. There are all sorts of surprises as I ride, from upside down loops, drops I didn't expect, and sometimes the ride even takes me backward. Eventually though, I notice the ride is beginning to slow down and not as full of surprises as earlier. There are fewer abrupt twists, turns, and drops, although maybe I'm just better prepared for them.

    Surprises still happen, but nothing seems as big and fast or as unsettling or enjoyable as the early ones although they're still satisfying. I know at some point my car is going to make its last turn and glide (and maybe bump) into the end and the ride will be over.

    I have a few more twists and turns to get through before my roller coaster ends, and I plan to face every one to the fullest. What a ride it's been so far though, and I can't wait for what's still to come!

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    1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this analogy for life. I have nothing to add except I am going to read what you wrote again and think about roller coasters and my life.

      AS an aside, I do not ride real roller coasters. Maybe I should rethink my resistance.

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  5. I'm in Tucson now for the winter, feeling the arthritis slipping away. Each day here is a gift. Or anywhere, for that matter.

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    1. Enjoy the Old Pueblo. There are not many places as nice for the winter months.

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  6. Hi Bob! I love the new (sometimes) more contemplative approach on your blog these days. I love to play with the paradoxes of life and my/our place in the world. This post definitely points out the both/and experience that is so beneficial in order to remain flexible and willing to continue to grow and experience as time goes by. Thanks for the thoughts. ~Kathy

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    1. It is certainly more freeing to be able to write about a broader range of topics, though all still relate to the retirement experience. I am pleased you like it.

      BTW, Betty and I would like to come to your neck of the woods sometime in the next several months to meet you and Thom in person. After flying to Kauai to spend time with Laura and Brett of The Occasional Nomads, a 4 or 5 hour drive to see you seems much easier!

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    2. Hey Bob! It would be great to meet you and Betty in person. And we are hoping to get down to Tucson in the next couple of months so perhaps we could meet somewhere that is closer to you....unless you just want to visit our area?

      Of course, we are planning to go to Ajijic MX for most of the month of December into the first of January so let's plan something after that if it works. Again, it would be awesome to spend some time together.

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    3. We like the Palm Springs area, so a break from our routine in your area would be fun.

      Our schedule is such that March is probably best, but we can email and see what works.

      As a matter of fact we drove to and from Tucson today for a lunch with a group of friends. 230 miles round trip for a meal!

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