This year, 2013, I will turn 70 years old. Although my outward appearance defines me as “old,” internally, I feel as vibrant and alert and as young as I did when I was in my thirties (a psychologist would call this “cognitive dissonance”). I would like to share the following insight with those of you who will be born this year, which I have observed from my newly attained vantage point:
Traditionally, we measure the past in terms of years or decades or generations (of 20 to 25 years), but if we measure history in terms of life spans (of say 70 years), the past is much, much closer than we imagine.
For example, (a) I was born in 1943, during World War II when Hitler’s armies had encircled Stalingrad and the Holocaust was raging; (b) a person who was 70 years old in the year of my birth would have been born in 1873, when Ulysses S. Grant was president, eight years after the Civil War had ended and African-Americans had been freed from slavery; (c) an individual who was 70 years old in that year would have been born in 1803 when Thomas Jefferson was President and the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France; (d) a person who was 70 years old in that year would have been born in 1733, when Benjamin Franklin began his Poor Richard’s Alamanck; (e) a person who was 70 years old in that year would have born in 1663 20 years before Issac Newton published his Principia and when the Puritans theocrats ruled New England, and (f) a person who was 70 years old in that year would have been born in 1593, ten years before Queen Elizabeth I died and six years before Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.
So, if you placed me and these five individuals together in a classroom or at a cocktail party, between us, we would have witnessed and could have recounted our personal histories for the last 400 years, since the beginning of the modern era. Further, if you put 28 of us with consecutive lifespans together in a room, we could tell you personal, first-hand stories dating back to the Roman era and the birth of Jesus.
To those of you who will be born this year, I say: welcome to the human family; you are the living link to our future; please be conscious of how quickly history unfolds and how closely we are all related to one another.