There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year. Is that a lot or a little? If one lives for eighty years, that is a bit more than 2.5 billion seconds. Is that a lot or a little?
Most people have thought that life is too short. When old age arrives, though, and if it brings serious hardships in its train, as it tends to do, some people are ready to accept death. Hans Jonas was such a person when I met him. He was eighty-seven, I think, and was “sated with days.”
Now that I have passed the benchmark of sixty years on the planet, or 1.892 billion seconds, I find that certain things I do seem extraordinarily stupid, in the sense that they are a wasteful use of limited time. Today, I spilled a small quantity of brown rice. I picket up the fifteen kernels of rice that were on the kitchen counter and walked ten meters into our wine cellar, opened the tin that stores grains and crackers in the wine cellar and protects them from the intrusion of mice, and then replaced the kernels of rice in the bag from which they had been spilled. This is behavior that might have made sense when I was in my twenties, but now? The trouble is, now I have these habits…and a wine cellar that is far from the kitchen.
It makes sense to think differently about how to use one’s time as one grows older, but how differently? In some ways, the most “philosophical” response to aging might seem to be to change nothing. One simply accepts mortality and finitude and lives in the moment, as one did as a child.