I turned fifty today. On the one hand, I can’t believe I got here already. Half a century. When I was a kid fifty seemed like an ancient age for someone to be. But now, big surprise, it doesn’t seem so old.
I’ve discovered over the years that one’s calendar age isn’t some monolithic truth. That really as you get older you carry all your younger selves around with you. And even when you’re very young, the person you’ll be at fifty, or ninety, is already there. After all, when I was ten I didn’t feel young. I felt I was who I was supposed to be. And it’s the same now.
And besides, I can console myself with the thought that fifty is the age at which both Bilbo and Frodo first set out on their great adventures. In fact fifty seems like a good age to start something new. Maybe something unexpected and uncharacteristic. Looking back on my life so far I realize that one of the things I’m most happy about is that I haven’t lost the desire to play. At least once in a while. I haven’t completely put away childish things, like the world expects me to.
I had a curious dream last night that probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve been thinking more than usual lately about my age. I was at a county fair, and saw a booth advertising “The Gentle Time Machine” of somebody called Doctor Misterius. I went in. The doctor was a tall thin man, and his time machine was nothing more than a small box with a single red button on top.
“Press the button and be miraculously transported into another moment in time,” the doctor said. So I did.
“Some miracle,” I said. “Nothing happened.”
“No?” the doctor asked. “When are you now?”
I thought about it and understood.
“Your time machine is time itself,” I said. “It’s always bringing us gently into the next moment.”
Well, the realization seemed profound when I was dreaming it.
Is time a miracle? If we don’t take it for granted, maybe it is.