Sunday, June 22, 2014

When you've only got a hundred years to live...



Ten years ago, right now, I probably heard the Five for Fighting song "100 Years" for the first time.

I was in Iraq and the song seized me musically and emotionally.

I was scared out of my wits and, for the first time in my life. seriously contemplating my mortality. I mean, I was in a war zone.

What struck me the most is that the song follows a normal life:

I'm fifteen for a moment...

Oh, do I remember fifteen! So full of life. Didn't have a clue what my life would be...

I'm twenty-two for a moment...

Now I'm bogged down in the study of Hebrew and theology and other classical languages. And I still don't have a clue what my life would be...

There's never a wish better than this...when you've only got a hundred years to live...

And that was the problem. 

 I don't have a hundred years to live. My parents both died in their sixties. A reasonable extrapolation of my longevity is that, at forty-eight, I am well past my half-way point.

And ten years ago, in Iraq, I was already well aware of my predicament. My parents were failing in health. And that made this song so much more poignant for me. Here I was, in a place I could die any second, while I knew that, far from a hundred years, I should hope for a little more than half that span.

Anyway, that's why this song captured my heart so firmly that summer of 2004. 

I'm thirty-three for a moment...

I've got my PhD. And I still don't have a clue what my life will be. I'm an academic nomad, teaching anywhere I can, hoping to someday build up a resume that will lead to a full time job.

And then 9/11 happened. And the NSA was sure hiring. And that's where I went.

I'm forty-five for a moment...

I've left the NSA. Now I'm a Latin teacher. I do feel that I am making a better future for the world than I did as a spy... I hope so.

I'm ninety-nine for a moment...

I don't think so. I'm an optimist, don't get me wrong. But the scientist in me assumes that ninety-nine is not a likely outcome for this data-set.

And, again, finally, that's why I am writing this post in the first place. 

This is about me being in Iraq ten years ago. I risked what little life I probably have before me. And, sadly, there is little to show for my risk. Iraq is a mess and descending into further chaos.

Those of you with a hundred years to live, make better decisions than we did at the turn of this millennium...





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