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May 09, 2006

Is Life Short or Is Life Long?

So here's a question: is life short or is life long? Or more precisely, how do you think of it? I suppose you could argue that it's a pessimist vs. optimist viewpoint, but I don't think that's really it. It's more about how much of a hurry you are in to get long-term things done, and how much you stress about how long they take.

As I look back from the ripe old age of 38, when I was a kid I mostly thought life was infinite, but I do remember envying my parents because they had gotten married, had jobs and house, etc. and their life was fairly settled. Then in college I was more in a "life is short" mentality where I was eager to graduate and start working. Now, when I am "settled" as my parents were (wife, job, house, kids), I am in "life is long" mode. It occurs to me that in 10 years I could be--almost anything! I could be a neurosurgeon if I wanted (except I don't). Or a lawyer. I could get an MBA. I could still be doing something at Microsoft. Or at another tech company. Or in another industry doing something technical. Or in another industry doing something non-technical. Or be a freelance writer. I could become really good at a sport I haven't yet played. Of course I can't do ALL of those things, but that's just 10 years. Which is also about how long it will be until our youngest child is self-sufficient (meaning, Mom and Dad can go on vacation by themselves). Then I've got two more 10-year chunks until I reach about the age my parents are now, and they are still kicking around as productive members of society. Shoot, when my mother was in her 40s she went off and learned programming and got a job as a programmer.

So I'm pretty sure that life is long and unless I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I'll continue to think that. To quote someone I found on the web, "Life is the longest thing anyone does!"

Speaking of the web, Google returns 137,000 hits for the phrase "life is long" and a whopping 1,680,000 hits for the phrase "life is short" (both results seem to be heavy on song lyrics and personal blogs). Interestingly, MSN Search and IceRocket's web seach also returns the same roughly 1 to 10 ratio, but blog searches on Technorati and IceRocket return more hits for "life is long" than "life is short" (by a ratio of about 5 to 3). Does this mean bloggers have a longer-term view than people in general? I suppose if people were completely rational and also thought life was really short they wouldn't spend time blogging. However people aren't completely rational, so there isn't much of a conclusion to be drawn there.

Posted by AdamBa at May 9, 2006 09:57 PM

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What the . . .? Isn't this one of the questions guys ask themselves just before buying a sports car?

If you have kids, the years pass too quickly. If you work on Windows time seems to drag on and on.

I considered living each day as if it were my last, but I figured I couldn't talk all of my friends and family into gathering around my bed every day crying a little but trying to seem cheery for my sake while waiting for me to have a lucid moment. In short, life is long. It's long enough that I have leisure time to comment on your blog post. It's all what you make it, right?

So where did this question of yours come from anyway, Adam? Recent birthday? Some kind of spiritual awakening? Get an interesting fortune cookie? Something else entirely?

(btw: I didn't comment on the Mehta post, but if you're into book news, Powell's (IMHO the coolest (and according to the Mercury the sexiest) bookstore in Portland if not the entire northwest) has a blog. My be your kind of thing. I dunno. Why do I feel like I'm writing Lisp right now? (Parenthetically, I think I know why.))

Posted by: Drew at May 10, 2006 02:10 AM

I recomend you to watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA .

Life is short only if you do same things every day. Life could be long if you do something new and different, something that worths remembering.

Posted by: Ivan at May 10, 2006 05:49 AM

It's not that life is short, it's just that you're dead for such a very long time.

Posted by: Isaac at May 10, 2006 01:49 PM

Drew, don't worry, no mid-life crisis here. Remember I'm thinking "life is long" right now. It's a thought that came me a while ago. Actually what spurred me to actually blog about it (except I forgot to mention it in the post) was thinking about the recent carping on Mini-Microsoft, when it occurred to me that Microsoft used to promote people as if life was short, but now promotes them as if life is long.

But I have been thinking I really need to get off my keister and work on a sequel to "Find the Bug".

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at May 10, 2006 11:00 PM