10/29/07

Limited Edition

One of the great things about the world is this: no matter where you are, no matter where you're going, no matter what point you may find yourself on in this rich pageant of human existence, you can generally assume there's a Cracker Barrel coming up.

They're everywhere, my friends. And if they're not open 24 hours, they're open 23 & 1/2, or at least every time I'm on the road. Yes, more or less whenever, you can pull over and get yourself some pretty good pancakes.

That's really something. Hype democracy all you want, prattle on about the Salk vaccine if you like, but I still say pancakes on demand is the crowning achievement of modern culture.

And here's the thing about that. This: You always expect another C.B. over the next rise, just a few feet of pavement from the next exit, but it's not so.

There are, according to their website, 556 of those suckers, with another few dozen planned for the next year. Fewer than a thousand. It's a lot, to be sure, but not infinite.

I think it's important to be mindful of these things; I think it shows us something important about life and how to approach it.

In fact, I'm going to re-quote Paul Bowles, who made this point much more eloquently, and much more cosmically, in his book "The Sheltering Sky."

Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.

It'll all be over someday. The last great conversation you had with your friend... that's one of only a few, relatively speaking, that ever will occur. And eventually, if you drive far enough, you'll run out of Cracker Barrels.

That doesn't make it meaningless -- it's exactly the opposite. Etcetera is the most misleading phrase in our language. There really is no such thing as "more, and more, and so many more that it's not even worth talking about." It's always worth it. Because it's all there is.

This moment, this entry, this block of seconds you've spent reading what I'm writing and letting it ricochet around in your brain a little bit, just like the moments in the future when you reflect on this idea -- probably while exiting off the interstate -- was a moment you'll never get back, never replenish, even if you live to a hundred.

Your time is finite, and precious, and precious because it is finite. I hope you decide these moments were worth what you spent on them.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

These moments were more than worth it! I'm so happy to see your "writing spirit" has returned. I missed it.

I can't wait to see you on Thursday. This time I'll be able to hear you as well.

Love and hugs
Mom

-T- said...

Didn't you tell me once that thout the elephants live an average 30 years, and mice live an average of 2, their number of heartbeats during their lives is the same. I'm conserving mine now...