Plan for Tomorrow – Live for Today
How one chooses to live one’s life is complicated by the uncertainties of tomorrow. Often there is an internal tug of war between the interests de jour and those that will be realized tomorrow. Due to the wonders of compounded interest, it is wise to save as much as you can – as early as you can. However, another powerful reality is that there may be no tomorrow – or a reality that tomorrow may manifest itself in unimaginable ways.
I am surrounded by reminders that saving your better days for tomorrow is unwise. Over the last decade, I have witnessed numerous loved ones and colleagues ravaged by disease. Most of them died, but those who survived are essentially incapacitated. They live-on, but are unable to experience life as they would prefer. Of those that are no longer with us, some were quite young and some were reaching or had just reached retirement age. Most lived their lives well, some did not: regardless, their peril certainly raised the value of their time, and they certainly had much left to live for.
Then there are the statistical realities of threats that my loved ones and I face. These threats include cancer and car accidents and even the more improbable, but not impossible, threats associated with catstrophic volcanism and asteroid strikes. The latter two events may seem to be ridiculous considerations, but the fact of the matter is that both are likely in near geological time. Some facts to contemplate:
Volcanoes -In a Discovery Channel piece on the supervolcano at Yellowstone it was indicated that “A modern full-force Yellowstone eruption could kill millions, directly and indirectly, and would make every volcano in recorded human history look minor by comparison. Fortunately, “super-eruptions” from supervolcanoes have occurred on a geologic time scale so vast that a study by the Geological Society of London declared an eruption on the magnitude of Yellowstone’s biggest (the Huckleberry Ridge eruption 2.1 million years ago) occurs somewhere on the planet only about once every million years.” It was also reported that “But at this hot spot’s current position under Yellowstone there have been three massive eruptions: 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 640,000 years ago. While those eruptions have been spaced roughly 800,000 and 660,000 years apart, the three events are not enough statistically to declare this an eruption pattern…” The risk is low but the threat is very real.
Asteroids – Although small (relatively harmless) bodies frequently enter the Earth’s atmosphere, it is estimated that 1 km (0.62 mi) in diameter asteroids hit our planet on average every 500,000 years. Larger asteroids (5 km or 3 mi) strike Earth approximately once every ten million years. Even more rare are the large body impacts (10 km or 6.2 mi). The last known major impact was the dinosaur killing KT extinction event 65 million years ago. Although it is unlikely that an Earth shattering asteroid will end or drastically alter my life – were it to happen – life as we know it would end. And we are past due. According to NASA “Statistically, the greatest danger is from an NEO [Near Earth Object] with about 1 million megatons energy (roughly 2 km in diameter). On average, one of these collides with the Earth once or twice per million years, producing a global catastrophe that would kill a substantial (but unknown) fraction of the Earth’s human population. Reduced to personal terms, this means that you have about one chance in 40,000 of dying as a result of a collision.”
I am careful not to “blow” these threats out of proportion, but they have figured into my thinking. Taking all this into consideration, I find it prudent to plan for tomorrow (by saving for retirement), but I find it equally important to live for today. Thus tomorrow, my wife and I jet off to Europe for a two week exploration of Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome. This is something that my wife has dreamed of her entire life. We are relatively young and able-bodied and can afford it (kind of): putting it off any longer seems unwise. Next Friday we will be in Venice, but I think I’ll wait to make my next post until the weekend when I’m in Florence where I’ll post a picture of Galileo’s middle finger.