My friend Tim did an interesting thing this week. He told me to watch a television series that had never crossed my mind; especially since it is being rebroadcast in it’s entirety on AMC. The series is titled “Breaking Bad”. Here’s the premise of the series: a 50 year old high school chemistry teacher finds out that he has terminal lung cancer and will only live a couple more years. His life drastically changes when he decides to use his knowledge of chemistry to enter the world of meth labs. I’ve only seen two episodes so far, but I love it. This is not family friendly television. One of the drug dealers can’t believe that a middle aged man from suburbia is manufacturing methamphetamine. When he asks the main character played by Bryan Cranston why he is doing it, he answers with an amazing line: “I woke up”. Pretty amazing answer, right? This is an underlying theme that seems to run through many of today’s current media stories. Remember the movie “The Bucket List”? Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman think they are dying. So what do they do? They try to accomplish the things they have always had on their list of things to do before they die.
If you think about it, there are lots of movies where the plot is that someone who thinks they have only a short time left to live throw caution to the wind and vanquish a foe or do something absolutely amazing. What is it about death that seems to be such an efficient motivator? Does finality beat procrastination like rock beats scissors? Why do football teams always seem to find a second wind during the last two minutes of the game? Didn’t they try hard enough during the other 58 minutes? I think I’m starting to “get it”. In a couple of weeks I’ll turn 52. And yes, it means that I really don’t have much time left on this earth. I have been in a funk this weekend because it occurs to me that I have wasted pretty much the majority of my life in endeavors that really aren’t significant. My wife will beg to differ with me. Being the quintessential optimist, she always looks at the brighter side of things. God how I love that about her! But she is biased by unconditional love. Sort of like the mom on Jerry Springer who defends her hideous child by saying things like “he’s such a good boy” etc. I’m sure Hitler’s mom spoke highly of him. But I digress.
Jesus's brother James said it best when he asked the question: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor, which appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.” 2010 flew by like a vapor. Last January it seemed like I had all the time in the world. But now I wonder how it could have passed so stealthily. And in retrospect, I didn’t do very well. In fact, the entire last decade has been a showcase for decisions and burgeoning endeavors that seemed good at the time. But history shows them to be miserable failures. And so as I write this, I hear the faint “tick tock” of my life’s story serenading me as an ambient noise. Like a person who lives by the sea shore yet doesn’t seem to notice the crashing of the waves, I really don’t detect it anymore. But whether the sands of time are perceived or not, they still flow undauntedly through the hour glass. And what is stored below far outweighs what lies in wait to squeeze through the tiny gauntlet.
I need a plan for 2011. And here it is:
I hope the words of this song will stick with the kids who sing it. And some day as they look to an approaching year, with the scales of their past accomplishments tilting towards the negative, they will take the lyrics to heart and formulate a game plan for the time they have left.