By Robert A. Vella
What’s the colloquial expression for one’s 60th birthday? Do we “turn,” “reach,” or “hit” sixty years of age? I don’t recall, but in any case The Secular Jurist is now 60 – not the blog, just me.
An acquaintance once described this chronological milestone as “being three-quarters to nowhere,” meaning that a foreseeable death will return the corporeal substances of our being back into the cosmic ether. Never a religious man, the statement has always had great import to me.
Sixty years, a span of linear-measured time during which the Earth has completed only 60 revolutions around the Sun. For comparison, Earth is over 4.5 billion years old. In other words, I’ve been alive for an incredibly microscopic .00000001333 (.000001333 percent) of the age of the planet on which I reside. Or, to put it another way, Earth is 75 million times as old as I am. If that isn’t sufficient to give people a humbling feeling of insignificance, I don’t know what would.
Since I was a youngster, my essential nature has always been strongly contrarian. A stubborn naiveté brought me into moral and ethical confrontations with family, friends, and colleagues. I couldn’t accept many of the prevailing attitudes of contemporary culture which were so easily digestible by most people. To me, morality isn’t something arbitrarily determined by snapshots of majority opinion – but rather, a philosophical commitment to sound, well-thought out principles. The so-called Golden Rule always met that threshold from my point of view.
The role of a contrarian is to hold up a mirror in the face of society. That’s what I’ve done and continue to do to this very day. However, people don’t always like looking at themselves. They prefer to ignore or hide their weaknesses while emphasizing their strengths. Those who present the mirror are frequently shunned and are sometimes met with hostility. It isn’t a comfortable position to maintain, especially when the mirror is reflecting one’s own image.
But, we are what we are and must accept what we are. Humanity needs its contrarians and non-conformists just as it needs its other personalities.
Getting old is a collision, of sorts, between declining physiological functions and an incidental coalescence of wisdom. When young, we are generally full of the former and bereft of the latter. But, by the time we realize it, this peculiar balance reverses.
Best wishes to all my fellow sexagenarians!