Dr. Soran: You know there was a time that I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Then the Borg came, and they showed me that if there is one constant in this whole universe, it’s death. Afterwards, I began to realize that it didn’t really matter. We’re all going to die sometime. It’s just a question of how and when. You will too, Captain. Aren’t you beginning to feel time gaining on you?
Dr. Soran: It’s like a predator; it’s stalking you. Oh, you can try and outrun it with doctors, medicines, new technologies. But in the end, time is going to hunt you down… and make the kill.
Picard: It’s our mortality that defines us, Soran. It’s part of the truth of our existence.
What Star Trek Generations came out, in 1994, I was 38 years old. That speech had meaning only because my father had died 6 years prior, giving me my first real sense of mortality, but it wasn’t something to dwell on, aside from it being of greater-than-normal importance simply because it was Star Trek. Today, at 62, there are obviously fewer years ahead of me than behind! But that’s tempered by the knowledge that Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) is not only still around, but 15 years older than me!
Then there’s Pink Floyd’s “Time” from their epic “Dark Side of the Moon” album (which, frankly, wasn’t my favorite; I think “Wish You Were Here” was their masterpiece)-
Run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
I wasn’t quite 17 when that came out (1973). Talk about abstract concepts! Who’s thinking about such things at that age? 18, 21 & 25 were relevant milestones. Well, maybe not 25, since I think I was almost 18 before I got my first driver’s license. I don’t think I was aware of mortality in the slightest, being a bicycle racer flying down hills in flimsy “hairnet” helmets that offered protection in name-only. I even thought at the time that fewer than 4 serious crashes a year meant I wasn’t taking the chances required to do well. Crazy thinking to be sure!
Today? Today I realize mortality isn’t defined so much by the time I have left, but my ability to create positive things that last beyond my years. The bike shop and my kids of course, and perhaps even my time on the city’s Complete Streets committee, and being on the Board of Directors of the bicycle dealer association (NBDA). Even next Tuesday’s whirlwind trip to DC (back Wednesday night!) to meet with legislators over funding for bicycle infrastructure. Things that I can do to make the world a little bit better place than they otherwise would have been… such things take on a more-tangible sense of importance. At some point, moving from discussion to action seems to become an important consideration.
Such are the things one thinks about on his 62nd birthday.