A sense of an ending
Having turned the corner on my 70th year, like prize winning author Julian Barnes, I have a sense of an ending.
Death frightens me and causes what Barnes calls great unrest, but for me it is not death but the dying that does so. After all, we each fade into unconsciousness every night, do we not? Where was "I" between 9 and 5 last night? Nowhere that I can remember, with the exception of my infrequent dreams. Where was "I" for the 13 billion years following the Big Bang? I can’t remember, but assume it will be the same after I depart – going back to where I came from, unknown, unremembered, and unconscious after billions of future eons. I’ll miss, though, not knowing what becomes of "you" and humanity’s torturous path – how it will all turn out in the end.
I’ll miss that sense of an ending, but it seems more of an uneasiness, not a great unrest. What I fear most is the dying – the "Tuesdays with Morrie" that for Morrie became unbearable each and every day in our modern world of medicine and extended living; the suffering that accompanied him and will accompany most of us along that downward sloping glide path filled with cancer, stroke, and associated surgeries which make life less bearable than it was a day, a month, a decade before.
Turning 70 is something that all of us should hope to do but fear at the same time. At 70, parents have died long ago, but now siblings, best friends, even contemporary celebrities and sports heroes pass away, serving as a reminder that any day you could be next. A 70-year-old reads the obituaries with a self-awareness as opposed to an item of interest.
Some point out that this heightened intensity should make the moment all the more precious and therein lies the challenge: make it so; make it precious; savor what you have done – family, career, giving back – the "accumulation" that Julian Barnes speaks to. Nevertheless, the "responsibility" for a life’s work grows heavier as we age and the "unrest" less restful by the year. All too soon for each of us, there will be "great unrest" and a journey’s ending from which we came and to where we are going.
A "sense of an ending" has been frequently mentioned in recent months when applied to asset markets and the great Bull Run that began in 1981. Then, long term Treasury rates were at 14.50% and the Dow at 900. A "20 banger" followed for stocks as Peter Lynch once described such moves, as well as a similar return for 30-year Treasuries after the extraordinary annual yields are factored into the equation: financial wealth was created as never before. Fully invested investors wound up with 20 times as much money as when they began.