Musings about our lifelong choices on Earth | Letters | Jan. 12

This past week I had an epiphany. I awoke early one morning and wandered downstairs to watch television until it was light enough to go steal my neighbor’s newspaper. I found myself flipping back and forth between two programs that eerily captured the spirit of the seemingly limited choices available to mankind these days.

On one channel was the final Republican “debate” from New Hampshire, sponsored in part by Facebook. Some of the questions posed to the candidates came from actual Facebook users.

Based on their quality and depth, it appeared that many of the questions came from viewers who were only temporarily distracted from their real interest: sending and receiving photographs of their cats wearing tiny hats and funny sweaters.

On the other channel was a hellish new cooking show hosted by Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray, in which competing teams of “celebrities” battle to be more obnoxious and gastronomically inept than both their opponents and the two hosts.

Caught between these competing man-made media monuments to despair and hopelessness, I realized that perhaps the universe was trying to tell me something. Not one to pass up a good epiphany, I turned off the television and pulled out a good book (“The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachman – two thumbs up, highly recommended, good beat, easy to dance to.)

After reading for a while I began to think about the choices we make about how to spend our limited time here on earth.

That, in turn, reminded me of something a very wise man once told me. He said the secret to a successful and satisfying life was to divide your time into thirds and devote one-third of your time to work, one-third to family, and one-third to providing service to others.

That prescription for a good life always seemed about right to me.  It also offers the added bonus of not allowing for any time in which to watch soul-crushing debates or inane cooking shows on early morning television.

Recently a very wise woman who I know intimately and who, coincidentally, was married on the very same day I was, questioned this formula. She suggested that the ideal life should really be divided into quarters, and that in additional to work, family and service, the other quarter of one’s life should be devoted to life-long learning.

I like this prescription even better. And in the spirit of striving to become better educated, I have vowed to ponder some of life’s more perplexing questions in the year ahead.

For example, I’ve always wondered if Dr. Frankenstein thought to take out the appendix and tonsils of his monster before bringing it to life.

I’ve also wonder if it would be possible to put an expiration date on the label of my clothing so that I’ll know when something goes out of style. (My lawyer friends would point out that this question assumes a fact not in evidence – that my clothes were ever in style to begin with.)

And I wonder why it is the shorts of NBA players continue to get longer and baggier while the corresponding outfits of NBA cheerleaders continue to get smaller and tighter? Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

And finally, while it may just be that I don’t fully understand how this evolution deal works, but if man evolved from the monkey how come there are still monkeys?

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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