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Note: This was originally written on the day before my birthday, so move yourself to that point in the spacetime continuum; it will help make most of this make more sense (but not complete sense).


Thoughts and Mumblings While Teetering on the Verge of 69 ...

It is July 20, 2018, and I find myself mindtripping on the statement,

“Tomorrow I turn 69.”

That is a very strange sentence, and one I’ve never uttered before (at least not in this lifetime). It has many possible meanings—which exist at various levels of the real and surreal—the combination of which are causing me to have multiple, somewhat contradictory, feelings.

So let’s parse that puppy and see where it leads us. Note to the pedantic: the following screed is incomplete because ... I don’t have much time left until the above statement is no longer true.

Tomorrow

First there’s this strange, somewhat arbitrary concept of time itself and how we speak about/refer to it. ‘Tomorrow’ means the day following the current one. But our day is not a precise measure of time; in fact the word itself is not precise since we have more than one definition of ‘day’, solar and sidereal being the two most frequently used. And neither of those is 24 hours long. So we don’t really know how long it is from ‘today’ until tomorrow.

We also have the minor problem that ‘time of day’ is purely a local phenomenon based crudely on longitude. It is currently 1130 PDT. I live north of San Francisco, which is -0800 relative to UTC. Oh, and we are on Daylight Savings Time, so make that -0700 UTC. Uluru (AKA Ayers Rock) is UTC + 0930. So as far as they are concerned (not that I am so self-centered as to think that anyone at Uluru is concerned about my age) it is 2018-07-21 @ 0400+ and I am already 69. But that’s just their opinion.

One of my favorite quotes about time comes from my now-deceased godmother. She was still firing on most cylinders (an odd expression in and of itself) and could hold up her end of the conversation. Well, most of the time she could. I remember once asking her something like, “What are you doing tomorrow?” Her reply ranks up there with the great Zen koans. She said,

“It’s not tomorrow yet.”

To this day this statement haunts me. Setting aside the question of whether there should be a comma between “tomorrow” and “yet”, or the deeper question of how the inclusion of ‘yet’ subtly changes the time vectors involved, there is the deep insight that this statement is always true. I wonder what list Gödel would put that one in? That thought must, by definition, remain incomplete.

I

My opinions about the meaning of “I” are somewhat confused, self-contradictory, and generally inexplciable, even to myself. Besides, it would take such a long time to discuss any of them, all the while knowing that we would never arrive at any sort of useful conclusion, I think it best if we just skip this one. Note: the shorter the word, the trickier it is. This is a very short word.

turn

This one is far more complicated than it first appears to be. You could say that it refers to the turning of the Earth on its axis. But we’re talking years here, so it probably refers to one orbit of the Earth around the Sun (another highly variable measure of time). But what about the Solar System orbiting the center of our galaxy? Or our galaxy orbiting within its galactic neighborhood, family, klan, or super-klan? These things can only be contemplated with a sufficient supply of beer, for some large definition of “sufficient.”

There’s also the problem that ‘turn’, as with so many English words, has multiple meanings. According to dictionary.com (picked at random from googling) “turn” has no less than 65 meanings when used as a verb, and another 35 when used as a noun. Looking back at my days in computational linguistics, disambiguating a word like “turn” requires an understanding of the context it is used in. But context is difficult to determine when the 2 words preceeding it are both deeply problematical, being fraught with colliding definitions and multidimensional philosohical contratictions. Sigh. Let’s turn to our last word.

69

When I was young(er), I thought “69” was a great number. It referred to a sex act where a good time could simultaneously (at least theoretically) be had by both partners. It was the last 2 digits of the year that a) I was academically suspended from the University of Denver, b) went to Woodstock (not that I remember much of it), c) was fired from my job for returning several weeks late from Woodstock, and d) discovered my number in the draft lottery was 27 and that the lottery had occurred almost a month before I found out about it (Mom taught me it was important to read the newspaper every day, and, as usual, she was right). It was also the year that Richard Nixon was sworn in for his first term as President (ah, for the Good Old Days™ when we had honest crooks running the country).

Being a computer geek, I also recognize that “69” is a base-10-specific representation of an abstract concept. I could also say “Tomorrow I turn 0105” (octal), or 0x45 (hex). But that a) doesn’t add much to the conversation, and b) still has the problematical “Tomorrow I turn” at the beginning. I guess we’ll just have to accept it for what it is and move on with our lives.

Final Thoughts

I have another favorite quote that is semi-relevant here; this one from my now-deceased mother. While she was telling me a story about some old guy, I interrupted her to ask how old he was. She looked flustered for a moment, and then unloaded this gem:

He was old enough to be dead.

Hmmm ... Leave it to Mom to f*ck with my head.

So we are left with today being yesterday’s tomorrow, and simultaneously being tomorrow’s yesterday. I think I’m old enough to be dead, and yet I’m not ... yet. But maybe I will be tomorrow. But ... but … It’s not tomorrow yet!

/rant /screed /68 /???



  Last modified: 2018.07.21 19:45 UTC                          © 2007-2018 Peter W. Rowell
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