I suppose one of the signs of aging is length of one's New Year's celebration. This year, we were actively enjoying the last day of 2010 with great music (a performance of Beethoven's 9th) and self-care activities (family luncheon, sauna, massage, hot tub soaking). We were done before dinner time. I was mysteriously afflicted with a wicked headache, so I had to lay down for a bit until it went away. I arose at 10 PM, enjoyed a bit more family time with my wonderful wife and 2 youngest daughters, shared a champagne toast with my wife, and went back to bed. No inebriation, no noisemakers, no dancing, no party for this aging Boomer. I woke up at 5AM on this first day of 2011. It is very quiet here.
Those of us born in the mid-1950's are in the fat part of the Baby Boom demographic bulge. Our older brothers and sisters, born in 1946, will turn 65 this year, so 2011 will be the first year in which Boomers start to move into the "old age" category. This has been a large, messy, wonderful, terrible generation. I took a gander at the New York Times this morning and found this article on aging Boomers. It is fair to say that we are more egotistical and self-indulgent than past generations of Americans. As the Times said this morning. "The self-aware, or self-absorbed, feel less self-fulfilled, and thus are racked with self-pity."
When I am feeling especially important, or especially discouraged, I find it useful to consider the immensity of geologic time. The earth was formed around 4.6 billion years ago; the oldest stuff discovered on our planet are zircon crystals, found in Australia, that scientists estimate are 4.4 billion years old. Single-celled life forms emerged 2.5 billion years ago; it took another 2 billion years for shelled mollusks to show up in the fossil record. Arachnids ventured onto dry land about 430 million years ago; amphibians followed them 60 million years later. In the Permian period, 248 million years ago, the Earth experienced its largest mass extinction ever - 95% of marine species and 70% of land animals were wiped out (the suspected cause was rapid climate fluctuation). Dinosurs died off 65 million years ago; hominids descended from the trees 6-8 million years ago. Modern humans appeared in east Africa about 190,000 years ago and began venturing across the globe about 70,00 years ago.
So we humans are a blip, a successful species that hasn't been around for very long in the grand scheme of things. The joys, ambitions, fears, dreams and disappointment of an individual human are quite insignificant when measured against the scope of our planet's life. We are simply creatures that live and die. Our big brains force us to think too much about the details of it all.
So 2011 will unfold, a blink in goelogic time, and we humans will focus on the daily crush of events and thoughts. Let's try to focus on one over-arching concept - it is a joy and a privilege to be alive.
Happy New Year.