Monday, 17 June 2013


Today is the seventieth birthday of one of my oldest and dearest friends BHV. We first met in the Cona Coffee Bar, off Albert Square, Manchester, UK aged eighteen. His great friend Tony was courting Hazel, who, by an amazing coincidence or was it Jungian synchronicity, was staying in Connecticut with the girl who had left me far behind, two years earlier, and emigrated across the unbridgeable unfathomable Atlantic, to become engaged to a Philadelphian at Yale - but, who eventually regained her sanity and returned to marry me. It is a small world.  When our first daughter was born, the first person to visit my wife was BHV's mother; bringing a gift of chicken soup to the Nursing Home. My, still energetic, old friend and I go back more than half a century - of shared events and fond and some sad memories. What does the future hold?

Six months ago, I also reached and breached the Biblical watershed age of seventy - my allocated three-score-years-and-ten - 3,640 weeks. One month ago the last of my four brothers died, aged just sixty-six. He did not "go gentle into that good night", stubbornly fighting every second of life limiting multiple illnesses for years, before finally letting go. I am The Last of the Mohicans - the last of our male tribe.

These reflections reminded me of when I was running workshops for Gil Gordon, Mr Telecommute America, in  Washington DC at Crystal City - on The Economics of Telework. With classes of twenty odd business executives suspiciously examining the pro's and con's of stopping commuting to work at home, I felt it necessary to persuade them to put a financial value on their "free" time - a concept they struggled with. We were all around forty years old and to make my point I asked them to work out how many weekends and hours they probably had left to live - which they all dutifully calculated. Afterwards - a more socially aware and thoughtful delegate than me - said "When we were counting our lifespans; the woman in the corner, in the blue suit, went into shock - And I don't think she's recovered yet. Perhaps you should be cautious about using that particular exercise." 

Then, in my 40's, I was still an immortal. Barring accidents, illness and death were things that only happened to other people, to old people - in unimaginable states and stages of life that I was surely completely immune from and that did not concern me. Doing the same maths now, I note that the average lifespan of an average UK male is 72.5 years. I am pretty average. Average height, average weight, average IQ, average drinker, average exerciser, average income - but with better than average teeth and hair. My parents and brothers all died "young" aged from 42 to 69. That gives me, on average, just two years to go - 104 weeks - 728 days - 17,472 hours - 1,048,320 minutes. That's better, over one million minutes left. Well that's quite a long time. We humans, blessed and cursed with intelligence and consciousness, are mercifully cushioned from our own mortal realities by the primate limit on counting. Few of us can count beyond seven. "How many people were at the bus stop?"  - "Oh! about eight or nine, I think." Any number over five becomes "a lot". A million minutes is an eternity - isn't it? 

My friend and I will yet march bravely on, shoulder to shoulder, for an infinite amount of time. In the meantime - Happy Birthday to BHV.

PS - Death is inevitable. Some are certain that it is The End. We stop and there is nothing. The older I get and the more science I read, the more I am beginning to conjecture that scientifically speaking we have broadcast our existence from conception - broadcast every atom, molecule and cell; every movement and thought and that like all other radio signals, our signals are also "permanent" and legible. I think our signals broadcast and in-form  and re-form the stuff of the universe; whatever "stuff" it is that makes the "pure energy" that underlies all matter - the electro-magnetic field - or light - or the Higgs Field. Our minuscule and risibly short lives - a mere blink in the life of the universe - create a broadcast, waves of light, that reach out to the limits of the observable universe - and maybe beyond. I am very interested to experience the fallacy or reality of this concept. Are we Creatures of Light?

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