Across the horizon line

Life is multifaceted. After that is anyone’s guess.

These are details of my current life:

I attend graduate school, and therefore my days are largely consumed with reading and writing, writing and reading. I train six days a week for triathlons, usually with multiple workouts in a day. I set my morning alarms to odd-numbered minutes, but I eat even numbers of M&Ms or Skittles (on the occasions I’m eating candy).

In his book SUM, neuroscientist David Eagleman presents essays on what the afterlife is like. One describes the deaths of synergistic endeavors: teams that produce a thing more important and powerful than the sum of the individual parts. In this way I have, at the young age of 24, lived several lives.

Many lives.

I began playing summer softball at age 6.

There were theater productions in elementary school, Destination Imagination competitions in junior high, newspapers in high school and college and a magazine in grad school.

There were the always-ephemeral P.E. teams for dodgeball and badminton doubles along with greater-than-me existences of football, cross country and basketball.

My longest-lived constants: 4-H club and track and field, both spanning a good run of more than a decade.

Months of preparation act as a social gel, setting a group of people into the mold of a common goal.

Inevitably, one day, sometimes after years of continuity, the actuality of that team or project or group ceases to exist. It is a death of the highest order.

When the larger being dies, the individual actors in that network also lose a function. No practice, no study, no recitals or sharpening of skills, nowhere to be at 3:30 or 6 or all day Saturday.

Within my one life, I have already lived and died many times.

Each life is different, and thus, each death hurts in a unique way. Similar to any movie script, some of my lives have ended at the hands of a rival, others to outside forces such as injury. I’ve watched lives evaporate due to buzzer beaters and soft-spoken words and breathlessness and inaction.

Some lives merely dissolve at a pre-apportioned time. A life ends with each final class, each sports season, each plane trip home from a shared global adventure.

This process holds true from political campaigns to Girl Scout troops. Paper-and-paste scrapbooks used to hold these memories for safekeeping. Days from another life.

Instead, we have online timelines and Internet websites created specifically for mashing together our real and digital experiences. Any life can live on.

Timelessness was once the realm of conquerors and explorers: Alexander the Great, Constantine, Magellan. Eternal fame was held by the brightest bearers of philosophy and the written word: Aristotle, Virgil, Homer, Sophocles.

Now, immortality is free.

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