Life is short. How short? If you started it off like it was a race and packed in as much as you could in the early years, how short was it? The year of a child is experienced slowly – so much is new: a three month summer vacation seems endless, Christmas is so far away, turning 16 takes forever, and until then it’s important to account for the months or half years. But to older people starting say in their late 40’s or middle age, time starts to fly. The Christmas decorations were just put away in the attic when it’s time to pull them out again. “Didn’t we just celebrate New Year’s?” The concept of time in a person changes over time. The more time spent on this earthly linear timeline, the more one appreciates time passing. Perhaps a person’s capacity to recall a life is finite, and the events of a lifetime are contained within that common container. For example, if we were to take a football field as a measure of the totality of one’s learning and recollection, and to assign years as fence posts aligned along that 100-yard measure, a person of eight would have to walk a bit between posts. A person of 50 would nearly touch consecutively placed posts, thus the feeling of “Didn’t I just do that?” I know this idea has already been written or recorded by someone. It’s not a new idea. Nothing is new, right? However, I haven’t read it written, it’s simply been mulling around in my head and been part of my conversations for some time.
On a related subject, Eric watched a TV program about the brain and sleep. Each day most people’s brains start afresh like RAM in a computer, empty and ready to load the day’s programs and write the files of our experiences, each and every minute event is recorded to our RAM like a sample plot of audio sound, the soundtrack of our day. The background “noise” of everyday existence . . . driving down a street, listening to the radio, opening a door, putting your keys down, etc., creates an average informational recording level, with the more important experiences peaking above the din as louder “samples.” By 3 p.m., our RAM is nearly full, straining our capacity to “record” more…why it’s good to nap and why it’s harder to learn new things in the evening hours. When we sleep, the brain dials down the “sample plot,” in effect muting the noise level to an inaudible flat line, while leaving compressed peaks of the more substantive memories—the taller the peak, the longer lasting the memory. Especially if reinforced by further study or experience, the peaks get “recorded” to our brain’s “hard drive” as information that is accessible to us always (unless the hard drive starts to fail), not flushed away when we awake with our recently emptied RAM memory, which is again ready to record the new day, starting with “Where did I leave my keys?”
Life is physical. We live on this earth in physical form to help us remember what we’ve learned. It is supposed to be physical, sensory…to feel pain, to feel the body and brain work and to be reminded via headaches, aches or bruises the next day, to feel sexual pleasure, the animal . . . in my case, to learn to sing, to feel the sensation of singing, singing onstage, singing and at once hearing around me Verdi’s Requiem sung by true opera singers; to “smell the roses,” savor chocolate, wine, coffee, madeleines, to play instruments in an orchestra, to learn languages, to communicate avidly and widely; to see sunsets from many angles and latitudes, to fly, to sail, to travel around the world—physically. What is the old adage?: “no teacher like experience, “no learning like doing,” or “learning the hard way.”
This trip of ours is sometimes more uncomfortable than I would have imagined during the years leading up to our departure. But Eric and I are of like mind when it comes to the value of experience. Hardship elevates experience into the “louder” realms of our soundtrack. Comfort and habit often compress to silence such that those ‘calm’ times become arduous to recall where the memories and learning blend together. Instead of specific days or weeks remembered, it’s the year or perhaps the decade in general that marks the time. We hope through this experience, through our daily challenges dealing with electricity, water, communications, provisions, boat maintenance and repairs, small living and storage spaces, foreign cultures, languages, exchanges of money, etc., to create a mountain range of memories for our family, creating bonds to last well into our sons’ elderly years, beyond the time of their parents. I hope to remember this period in our lives not as if it were a dream, but an easily recallable memory…always close, present and influential in my future decision making.