Chuck Latovich is a member of the Board of GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders), a consultant in Positive Psychology, and an intricate mystery writer the publishing world has yet to discover. He is also a longtime friend. He sent me this response to the question one month after I began my journey.
How will we live tomorrow?
Embedded in your question is a predictive ability that’s uncomfortable for me. Tomorrow will bring inventions and events I can never imagine. (See also: 2003, before smart phones, marriage equality, etc.) Of course, I worry about wild weather patterns, catatonia induced by addiction to electronic devices, and political polarization. I’m not sure what I can do about those mammoth issues; they are overwhelming. I try to act with some integrity within my sphere of influence. I hope I have enough time and health to do more. I hope for the best for those who will survive me.
But there is a forecast that I have taken to heart, one that I saw a couple of years ago on a billboard. “The first person to live to 150 years of age is alive right now.” Advances in health care will extend the average lifespan remarkably over the next century. People will rationally expect to live a very long time. This is true of your children, but you and I have a taste of that. I am far healthier than my mother was at my age. I am more mobile. My teeth are my own!
So people tomorrow will have to come up with ways to fill many more years. They will have more opportunities to live a worthwhile life. More challenges, too.
First, you have found work that is personally meaningful to you. In your current occupation (writer/researcher/cyclist?), you are using your considerable skills, taking chances, are interested in what you do. To an observer, you are, in a phrase from positive psychology, “in the flow,” beyond happiness and occupying a zone where time disappears because you are fully engaged in what you do and are thoughtful, dedicated and disciplined about it. I’d say you were “firing on all cylinders” if it weren’t a cliché and somewhat out of keeping with your present mode of travel.
Second, you are having fun. Pleasure is there in the meals you recount, in the delight of visiting people and places that you’ve loved in the past and want to see again, or in the fulfillment of a desire for a new, but long-sought, experience. Pleasure is such an important part of life, e.g., “Would you like more beer or ice cream?” I’d probably add sex to those two, and change the beer to wine, but that’s me.
Third, and final for now, you are getting, and giving, all sorts of love. Once more from my own studies in positive psychology, relationships are primary, but that’s adding an academic layer to what’s really common sense. I am continually touched by the stories you recount of strangers who feed you, comp your meals, pray with you, offer help, give you a place to sleep, are curious about you, who are so exceptionally generous to you, who never met you before and who may never see you again but are nonetheless willing to support you. I have found this theme of your narrative incredibly moving. I’m sure there are exceptions, but in what you’ve told us, the charity (as in virtue) far outweighs the slights.
There’s a quote that I have on my Facebook page from a writer named Tim Kreider: “I know intellectually that all the urgently pressing items on our mental lists—our careers, car repairs, the daily headlines, the goddamned taxes—are just so much noise, that what matters is spending time with the people you love.” Holy smokes, Paul, you are going to know a world of people when you are done! I’d say you are a lucky man but that would negate all of the effort you’ve put in to make the love happen. Luck is a small part of it.
Tomorrow: Love, fun, work. Fundamentals.