Old Reliable

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Richard Friedlander says that death, that Old Reliable, will always have something to teach us about life.

It used to be said that the only things you could rely on were death, taxes, and the San Francisco Giants. Then the Giants won three championships, some corporations paid no taxes and only death remained. However, since the Renaissance shifted the goal from the greatest good to personal happiness, personal death has assumed a greater importance than when it was generally accepted that most people existed as fodder for others. While Copernicus and Galileo proved that we were not at the center of the universe, our newly-released egos disagreed, and we began to believe that civilization peaked in the minuscule era of our personal zenith and went south when we did.

Life moves in a parabola. We are born knowing nothing, instinctively fearful of life and relying on others for support. As we grow, we acquire more and more information, respond to more and more stimuli. For a few wonderful years, at our peak, we know the world intimately, in harmony with all that life has to offer. We breathe in the roses at the precise moment they let go their fragrance. We are the makers of the True Renaissance that only we understand.

And then the world moves on and we fall away. We try to interpret the present according to the past and inevitably, we fail. Our aging bodies betray us. Intellect gives pleasure where once we held out for passion. We are bewildered at how everything and everyone else grows old.

Thanks to technology, we continue to push back the age when we can expect to die, but technology’s implicit, long-range promise is the death of death itself.


What then? As creatures that still live and die, we are nowhere near adjusting to the doubling of our life span or the break-up of the family structure technology also has helped bring about. Who knows the consequences when endless life and an unlimited amount of leisure become commonplace? The joke may be on us. We may find out what the wise have always known: that to know what it is to live it is necessary to die.

With a Perspective, I’m Richard Friedlander.

Richard Friedlander is an East Bay mediator, actor and writer.