DD has a goal for the summer: climb as many 14ers as possible (this is a Colorado “thing”). Last weekend she hiked four in one day: Democrat, Cameron (although it is not technically a true 14er), Lincoln, and Bross. As she fulfills her bucket list, I think about my own list from when I was about her age. There I was, backpacking through Europe during my junior year abroad, and ticking off as many countries and cities as I could visit on my 2-month Eurail Pass. And let me tell you, you can hit quite a few cities if you are willing to sleep overnight on trains then run like mad from one famous site to the next. Then repeat.
The smart phone makes it so easy for people to have pictorial evidence of their existence at any moment in time. An actress once explained to an interviewer why she didn’t take selfies with fans: Just because you don’t have a picture doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I dragged a 35 mm Canon with multiple lenses around Europe, and I have hundreds of photographs of “can’t miss” places. I have pictures of Lucerne and Zurich, and zero memories. As in, I don’t even remember BEING there. Just because I have pictures doesn’t mean it happened.
As I age, I worry more and more about the state of my mind. Are these lapses in memory, lapses in my vocabulary, lapses in attention — are these significant? Or has my brain in fact become more efficient at weeding out extraneous information? This of course would be a much kinder interpretation. I visit Tom Vander Well’s Wayfarer blog every now and then and come away inspired to change something in my life. Today, the entry I read had to do with what we choose to focus on as we age (“Fixing Our Eyes on Life”). Aside from the inherent optimism of choosing to focus on the life ahead, the message resonates with me as I watch my father dying in place. His eyes are turned inward to all his memories of his parents (dead), his brothers and sisters (dead), Mom (dead), and finally to his own existence (what is the point?).
When DD was younger and we corrected her, she would try out some sort of explanation or excuse. She then graduated to “I will do better,” and now she just says “Okay.” I have no idea what “the point” is, but I keep trying. Fixing our eyes on Life? OK.