71 - a Good Age to Die
I've always had a real fear of growing old. The thought of losing my faculties, growing infirmed both physically and mentally terrifies me. One of my favorite movies of all time is Harold and Maude. The movie presents what to me is an honorable and dignified solution to this problem. Maude, a 79 year old woman, recognizes that, while she has lead an exceptional and wonderful life, she is moving into an age at which her quality of life is going to rapidly deteriorate. So on her 80th birthday she celebrates her life and then ends it. She sets the terms, she chooses the time and place - everything is in her control. The scene in the movie is handled with real beauty and dignity. I look at my grandfather in comparison. In July he will turn 103. Once a talented painter, he is nearly blind and Parkinson's disease causes his hands to shake so badly he can't write his name much less paint. He is nearly deaf. He has had prostate cancer and skin cancer. Though he still has all his mental faculties, what is the quality of his life? Now I'm biased here. Even as a young boy I remember my grandfather to be one of the most miserable, mean, spiteful and hateful people I even knew. I know he continues to live simply out of spite to everyone. But I wouldn't want to live his life. I don't want to be 103.
So what was all this about? Oh yeah - finding a time to gracefully and peacefully end my life in a dignified manner in a way I choose. Well it turns out I might not need to plan out all the details. You see, there is a rather massive (50 million tons give or take a dozen) meteor headed out way. It is scheduled to pass percariously close to the earth in the year 2036. That's 30 years from now. I'll be 70, on my way to 71. Now apparently there is a small but real chance that this meteor will not just pass close to our planet, but that it will actually hit the earth. According to NASA, the chance is somewhere between 1 in 5000 and 1 in 10,000. Those numbers may seem small, but considering the vast emptiness of space that's a significant chance. Let's put this in perspective. If there were a 1 in 5000 (or even 1 in 10,000) chance of a plane crashing everytime it took off, would anyone in their right mind fly anymore? Hell no. We'd be talking about at least one major airline crash every day. No one would be willing to take that risk.
That being said, I'm surprised to just now be learning about this. It was mentioned as sort of an aside to an article I was reading on CNN.com. Maybe NASA doesn't want to cause unnecessary and unwarranted panic. After all the chance really is quite small. I can understand that. But still, this kind of doomsday scenario has gotten such popular play in movies and sci-fi novels and the like - that I would have thought somebody would have gotten their hands on this little tidbit of information and played it up for all its worth. Look at what the media has done with the bird-flu. Trust me - 25 million dead from the bird flu would pale in comparison to the death toll from a 50 million ton meteor.
Anyway, my whole point in all this is, the more I think about it, the more I kind of like the idea of my life ending at the ripe old age of 71 at the hands of a meteor strike. Having led a long, fulfilling life, still in possession (I hope) of most of my mental and physical capabilities, a death by meteor seems to me a great way to go. Oh sure it will be tragic and awful for hundreds of millions of others on this planet. But as you know, if you've read even just a few of my postings, I'm not a big fan of the human race. So fuck 'em - a meteor hitting the earth causing the near or complete extinction of the human race serves us right. As a race we have been terrible stewards of this planet and are really undeserving of it.
I would feel bad for the animals though.