SMOKE: As Time Goes By
Originally published: 20 August 2004
High up in the North in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak.
When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.
- Hendrik Willem Van Loon; The Story Of Mankind
Hey? Freak me out, man.
I'll never forget that description of eternity by Dutch author Hendrik van Loon - my mother had a huge, dusty, leatherback tome with The Story Of Mankind inside and I must have tried to read that book 20 times at least.
I never got beyond the opening paragraph - I would read it, then sit back and contemplate the enormity of the explanation of a single day of eternity and before I knew it my mother would be calling me to come bath.
It's a staggering thing to me - maybe you don't feel the same, but my mind is blown every time I read it. I've always been fascinated by concepts of space and time (although my knowledge of both is severely limited) and van Loon's description is the reason why.
I've been musing about time recently (I'm turning 32 on Saturday) and it occurred to me that I'm probably somewhere around the halfway point of my life. I can't see myself lasting for much longer than my mid-60s - the only thing surprising about that is that no major drug companies have approached me to be their mascot in the fight against pain.
My lungs are a disaster, my ulcers have multiplied at a rate of knots and have now formed their own little community complete with town hall, a school for budding young ulcers and even their own mayor (he's an Irishman who thought they said Ulster), and my back is still the vast expanse of pain it's been for nigh on a decade.
It's amazing that I'm still alive, actually - I put it all down to having a positive attitude and a generous dealer. The fortified turrets outside my house also help, it must be said.
So I've taken 32 years to reach the halfway point of my life and looking back on it I realise that time only really started accelerating for me once I'd left school - before that the first 18 years seemed to take an eternity, while the last 14 have sped by in the blink of an eye.
What's that about? Maybe time slows down when you don't have any responsibility. It's the only thing I can think of.
As a kid you have no responsibility and time is thus a continuum, but as an adult everything you do is marked by strict blocks of time: office time, bath time, supper time, kids to bed time, shag time and bed time. Everything is a time.
But as a kid you simply lope along from one adventure to the next and time is one long game interrupted by sleep and mothers looking for you and homework avoidance behaviour. In other words - you don't notice time as much.
When I think of myself as a kid the first image that comes to mind is sun and a garden - that's what life used to be.
But when I think of myself now I see an oke bliksemming along at 60 words a minute in an effort to roll out his 3,000th word of the day on the back of a murderous week and I tell ya - from where I'm sitting 64 ain't looking too bad right now.
I seem to have spent my life rushing ever since I left behind those halcyon summer days that took an eternity to conclude. Rushing to be a success, rushing to make my mark, rushing to the shops to get the bloody toilet paper I forgot.
All this rushing means time is going by a little faster than I'd like it to. I wish I could slow it all down again, but the harsh reality set in a long time ago - there are 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day and if we work on the premise that I have 32 years of life left it means I have precisely 16,819,200 minutes to live until I die.
If I carry on working as many hours as I currently do then 11,212,800 of those minutes will be spent working, leaving me 5,606,400. Sleeping will use up 4,204,800 minutes leaving me with a paltry 1,401,600 minutes to myself.
That equates to just less than three years, if all goes well and if my mathematics is not what it used to be.
So I have roughly three years of chilling to do before I die, and I intend to chill to the max.
I'm going to start by putting my feet up this weekend and watching the Boks hand it to the Aussies on their way to their second ever Tri-Nations crown, and after that we'll see.
All Smoked Out,