Let me take a step back: The title of this post is not entirely accurate. Of course, we begin to die at about age 16, when our brains are fully formed and our bodies begin to succumb to the power of entropy. Time rips at the ends of our telomeres, piles garbage into our cells, ruins our skin, and our organs begin little by little to fail. Our arteries begin to clog with Big Macs, injuries acquired over the years begin to call notice to themselves, the cartilage in our joints begins to thin and tear, our bones begin to grow brittle, our eyes start growing cataracts. As we begin to take notice of these ravages, we pull back from risky activities, accelerating our demise. This risk-aversion spreads to include other aspects of our lives: We choose security: We select easy partners and secure jobs and tasks that do not test us. We embrace entropy; we gradually slip beneath the waters; we join the Dark Side without even noticing it.
Then, one day, we open our eyes and realize that we are drowning. We realize that we are failing as human beings, and that we are literally, physically, failing, like the winter sun nearing the frozen horizon. We are doomed.
Many of us rage against the dying of the light. We recognize the ways in which we are conspiring with entropy to hasten our end, and begin to eat better, lurch into demanding physical activity, harbor new hobbies that stimulate our minds, destroy the castles of comfort and security that we have mindlessly built around ourselves - edifices that hem us in rather than protect us from anything. Indeed, we recognize how all our comfort- and security-seeking has led us to a place where we are standing at the shore of the River Styx even before the ferryman can even see us. We become shadows.
I guess this is a long and dramatic way of saying that I discovered this morning - thanks to a second mirror that I was using to trim the hair on the back of my head - that I have developed a bald area on the back of my head where I used to have a wild cowlick. Over the past few years, my beard has faded to much grey. A few years ago, I discovered much to my horror that I had become fat; that I did something about, and am in as good of physical condition as ever since adolescence. But am I? The outward signs would suggest no.
So I see the failing of the light now, though the world has been dimming for many years, and that fills me with an urgency to resist. I cannot win this battle, nor can anyone I love, yet we will all fight it at predictable intervals until the light fails completely.
In brighter news, more proof of water on Mars!