Based on the average lifespan we have a mere 4000 weeks to live. That would make a butterfly ecstatic, a tortoise disgruntled. I found it merely depressing. On the that basis, I have about 1000 weeks of life left – and that’s if I’m lucky.
What to do with my thousand weeks? Better than ‘Anne of a Thousand Days’ perhaps, and at least ‘Mike of a Thousand Weeks’ isn’t going to end with a sword to the neck, unless I’m very unlucky. Perhaps we should all wear expiry dates on our foreheads—bank cards on legs, though I suspect we already do on anonymous servers.
For those curious and busy now ‘checking their privilege’ this news of good cheer comes from ‘Four Thousand Weeks’ by Oliver Burkeman, only I clearly don’t have time to read it. The columnist Craig Brown has read it for me and provided the salient points. Perhaps that will be the future of my reading from henceforth: precises, digestible gobbets consumed while cleaning my teeth—although who can be thinking of teeth with just a thousand weeks to play with?
Another thought struck; the one thousand weeks remaining must include sleep. So, in real time, I have perhaps just under 700 weeks to look forward to. That’s barely enough to cover my unread books – many of them impulse buys on kindle.
The book touches on other, lighter but equally thought-provoking topics. Taking as a fact that many people live to a hundred, Burkeman points out that based on this, only 35 ‘lifetimes’ separate us from the Golden Age of Ancient Egypt, twenty ‘lifetimes’ separate us from Jesus, and a mere five ‘lifetimes’ separate us from Henry VIII and ‘Anne of a Thousand Days.’ (142.8 weeks)
Seven hundred weeks. Maybe I should spend less time on social media, in Burkeman’s words: ‘a giant machine for getting you to spend your time caring about the wrong things.’ Or maybe I should just stop worrying.
Burkeman quotes a line in Tom Stoppard’s play The Coast of Utopia: “Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child."
It could of course be turned on its head: Because people die, we think the purpose of people is to die. But a person’s purpose is to be a person, or in my case a bit of a mildly worried grump.