There Is More To Life…
Than Paddling Around and Accomplishing Nothing

I have written hundreds of articles about waking up to the reality of my two dances with death in 2008. If not for Mike Schmitt, I would have done both dances and not grasped that life-changing reality. My Weltanschauung changed radically due to his sending me a link to Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture.

Consequently, I learned a critical issue about life: we aren’t immortal. If you haven’t done the dance yet, your knowledge base isn’t the same until you have danced with death. The difference between Pausch and me is that his dance ended less than a year after his dance with pancreatic cancer. I am fortunate to have lived a dozen years longer than he with my dance.

I have had the luxury of growing old but haven’t done the dance with aging. I’m aware, at one level, that I am getting old. Sure, we will hopefully grow older, but I missed the message precisely like doing the dance with death. I was oblivious to aging. I don’t run cross-country as I did while in high school or college. To be truthful, I don’t run at all.

However, I had an operation on my foot a month ago. It resolved my problems with plantar fasciitis and tarsal tunnel syndrome. Nevertheless, I walked around my home with a walker, and when I wanted two go up and downstairs, you can’t use a walker.

At this juncture of my life, I grasp all my days as a fair-hair youth are gone and that my time on Earth is severely limited. However, I now realize that the aging process will make my journey down the yellow brick road increasingly difficult.

As chance would have it, I discovered a strange creature on the Internet. Water bears are microscopic invertebrates. A German zoologist came up with the name Kleiner Wasserbär, which means little water bear. The scientific name was from an Italian biologist. Tardigrada means slow steppers in Italian. There are over 1300 species of this creature.

A water bear

While they aren’t immortal, they can live in a cryptobiotic state, which means hidden or concealed life. During the cryptobiotic state, their metabolic activities are 0.01% of normal. Then they can reanimate and return to life. “Tardigrades were found in an ice sheet 2,000 years old and came back to life. This form of resistance allows it to suspend time, but also to survive extreme temperatures.”

Water bears are tiny, measuring about 0.05 inches long. They have eight legs with claws. Additionally, these invertebrates have been paddling around on Earth for 600 million years, preceding the dinosaurs by about 400 million years. This video records several water bears swimming under a microscope lens.

While the water bears can live for 2000 years or more, there must be more to living than just paddling around and accomplishing nothing. Interestingly, in my baby book, there was a poem by Will Allen Dromgoole.

The Bridge Builder.

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

Life is not only about living; it is about giving. It is in giving that we get. That is a far better alternative to paddling around and accomplishing nothing in life.


This is an excellent video about tardigrades.