Birthdays tend to remind us of our mortality. I recently passed my 49th year on earth, which doesn’t seem like much, but when set against the life expectancies of our forebears and the number of people who have lived before me and my generation, it becomes immediately obvious that I have now outlived close to 95 percent of people who have ever roamed the earth. It’s an astonishing thought, really.
Just over a century ago and for a long time prior, the average life expectancy globally hovered around the low 30s. Three decades was all you had on average…imagine that!?! Recently, life expectancy has shot up to 71 globally and 80 in the developed nations due to improvements in sanitation, food, and medical systems…doubling in just over a century! While that is still a far cry from the lifespans mentioned in the biblical record (if you take such references literally or seriously at all), it is a remarkable increase. The question, I suppose, is what are we doing with those years?
To my mind, this increase is a gift to the degree that we take full advantage of the extra minutes, days, months, and years. On the other hand, they are a curse if we fail to handle them responsibly. Longer life in this case could only mean more suffering. And who wants that!?! Why live to be as old as Adam, Enoch, or Methuselah (930 years, 365 years, and 969 years, respectively) if the life lived doesn’t give evidence of a constantly expanding outpouring of blessing?
It may seem strange, but I decided to start wearing a mechanical watch again in celebration of this recognition.
Actually, I did this for two specific reasons. The first reason was rooted in a commitment to myself not to fear the shortening of the time left, but to appreciate and vigorously engage with the moment at hand. The second reason was borne of the realization that my go-to time source has been my smartphone for some time. I hypothesized I (and have since verified) that there is something wholesome and uncorrupted about a basic watch. Assuming it is accurate, it tells the time and perhaps the date. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a veritable time reporting and time-saving device. There is no rabbit hole attached to it, no bottomless pit of information and claptrap sitting just below.
I’m sure there are many implications to this theme and I hope that you will take the time to explore it further!