18 October 2008

Half a century

I reach the half-century mark today.

Birthdays are arbitrary, and the idea of giving special significance to one birthday per decade is doubly so. But there is that human impulse to divide the flow of time, and the digital imperative of making the divides subservient to the base ten number system.

There's an episode of Monk, in fact, in which Adrian complains about the packaging of eggs by the dozen. A new acquaintance, trying to become his buddy, says, "I see what you mean. We've got a base ten system, let's stick with it!"

So we watch the odometer of our lives spin about and look with some awe at those moments when another "0" comes up on the right side.

Since I was born in mid-October, and I've long been a baseball fan, one way to measure my life and its landmarks involves the fall classic, the World Series. I was delighted Thursday by the Red Sox' come-from-behind win to keep alive their chances for a World Series appearance this year. But I was reminded that the event itself is creeping forward in the calender, creeping toward colder days.

Looking at the big picture, over the decades, the trend has been toward expansion of the leagues and then division. The marketing folks have felt the need to get more teams involved in the post-season play, so more fans stay interested longer. This in turn has made the post-season longer.

There is a lesson in that, I suppose. As any set gets larger it tends to break up into sub-sets, and those into further sub-sets, and so on in fractal fashion.

As people age, likewise, we find that we've had more experiences, so we divide them too into sets and sub-sets. We have more categories of "things to think about" and ways to try to think about them. And our efforts at them sorting out ... need sorting out. The sorting efforts break up into subsets and sub-subsets!

The World Series of sorting-outs arrives, if at all, on one's death bed. That would be one of those classically literary death beds, where the protagonist says, "Aha!" and then imparts the distilled wisdom of his years to young'uns gathered round.

I'll try to avoid my death bed for a few decades yet. Obviously, I need a lot more time with this wisdom-distilling stuff. When I try to come up with something these days I end up reaching for Monk and baseball.

Let's end, instead, with a quote from Herbert Spencer. He thought it described the history of civilization -- it might better describe a human life, or at least mine as I look back in self-definition and forward in hope.

"Civilization is a progress from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity toward a definite, coherent heterogeneity."

1 comment:

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.