The other day as I was stepping out of Star Grocery on Claremont Avenue with some pork ribs under my arm, the Berkeley sky cloudless, a smell of jasmine in the air, a car driving by with its window rolled down, trailing a sweet ache of the Allman Brothers' "Melissa," it struck me that in order to have reached only the midpoint of my life I will need to live to be 92. That's pretty old. If you live to be ninety-two, you've done well for yourself. I'd like to be optimistic, and I try to take care of my health, but none of my grandparents even made it past 76, three killed by cancer, one by Parkinson's disease. If I live no longer than any of them did, I have at most thirty years left, which puts me around sixty percent of the way through my time.
I am comfortable with the idea of mortality, or at least I always have been, up until now. I never felt the need to believe in heaven or an afterlife. It has been decades since I stopped believing-a belief that was never more than fitful and self-serving to begin with-in the possibility of reincarnation of the soul. I'm not totally certain where I stand on the whole "soul" question. Though I certainly feel as if I possess one, I'm inclined to disbelieve in its existence. I can live with that contradiction, as with the knowledge that my time is finite, and growing shorter by the day. It's just that lately, for the first time, that shortening has become perceptible. I can feel each tiny skyward lurch of the balloon as another bag of sand goes over the side of my basket.
Are you comfortable with the idea of mortality? What's your definition of the "soul"? Does it exist?