The semester's over, it's grey and rainy out. I'm reading a long book about death and killing. It's the perfect time for an existential crisis!
Having just taught my course on the meaning of life, I've been reading good writing on life and death by the best philosophers around, past and present, people like Peter Singer, Thomas Nagel, Robert Nozick, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Sartre, Richard Taylor, Victor Frankl, and my favorite despairing novelist, Leo Tolstoy. Oh yes, and I wrote a book that grapples with such things. With all that to draw on, I really ought to have contempt for a one sentence lyric from singer/songwriter James Taylor, he of the pretty songs, right? But here it is--the cure for what ails us, all in one sentence:
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Many of the above heavyweight thinkers worry a great deal about things coming to an end, like a semester, a holiday, a stage of life, the whole of a life. The problem is really time and it's awful tendency to ship things off to the past. Can't we just stop the whole thing for a moment? Sorry, but no. Or latch on to things that last for an eternity, like God and heaven? A nice thought, but I suspect there isn't anything like that. The solution is surely enjoying the passage of time.
What exactly would that be like? What is it to enjoy not just moments, or a bunch of moments (an hour, a weekend), but the passage of time? Whether James Taylor said it or a philosophical luminary, I'm going to have to think about it!
Truth in posting. This is a slightly revised rebroadcast, but I was thinking about that sentence again. As my kids get ready to graduate from elementary school in a few weeks, it keeps coming to mind. Funny--I first ran into it in the front office of their school, where it was attractively inscribed on a bench. Maybe the people in charge over there know a thing or two about parental emotions.