Reader Request Week 2007 #1: Justifying My Life
To inaugurate this year’s Reader Request Week, in which I write on your requests, because I love you in a mannish, totally het sort of way, here’s a deep question, from Ray:
The world ends in 72 hours. How do you justify your life?
Well, Ray, I guess my question is, justify it to whom? I’m a doubtful agnostic, so I’m not likely to try to justify my life to God, whose line is likely to be jammed up in any event. If it’s the end of the world, everyone else is gonna be dead in 72 hours, too, except the dudes in the international space station, who will clearly have problems of their own. I’m not going to try to justify my life to a cosmonaut; I don’t know how I would reach one, and if I did I’m not sure he’d care. “Da, da, your life is good. Hang up now.” Likewise I’m sure everyone else in the world will be kinda busy, too. And since it’s the world that’s ending, not just humanity, there will be no future race of intelligent rat/roach/squid/whatever to find my words etched into stone or glass or titanium or whatnot.
At the end of days, the only people to whom I would feel the need to justify my life would be to those I feel the need to justify my life to now, and on a daily basis: My wife and daughter, and to a lesser extent myself. Since I try to justify my existence to them daily, and try to live my own life so that if it were to end I could not say I was dissatisfied with it, having the end of the world coming up in three days would not make a tremendous difference in terms of personal justification. I’m justified well enough, thanks, that I wouldn’t feel the need to take any chunk of my short remaining time to deal with it then. This is one area in which I’ve planned ahead.
Instead, with my last days, I would simply say goodbye; presuming the phones and the internet have not collapsed, I would post a last entry here, and I would call and e-mail friends and as briefly as possible I would let them know what they meant to me. Then I would turn off the computer, the phone and the world and spend my last day as I spend all my days — in love with my family, and with them no matter what comes next, even if what comes next is nothing, and happy in the knowledge that the love we have for each other needs no room for regret, or for further justification.
As it should be in all things, in any event. My world — my apprehension of it, anyway — could end in 72 hours, or in 72 months, or (very optimistically) in 72 years. We don’t know when we will die. I can’t say I always manage to live my life so I do not have to justify it, or regret my actions; I am, alas, human. But I try. If I die today, I do not think I would have much to justify. I am, by my own standards, a good person. I believe I have been a good husband and father and friend. And I’ve certainly kept you lot entertained. I’m good.
So, Ray, that’s how I would justify my life: I wouldn’t. I would spend my last days doing other more important things. It’s a better use of my time, what little of it remained. I would hope you would be able to do the same.
(Want to participate in Reader Request Week? Add your own question here)