As I approach 60, I’m starting to recognize I won’t do all I’d intended to do, learn all I’d intended to learn or travel to all the places I’d intended to travel. Since my goal had been to do all that could be done, learn everything and go everywhere, I can live with this reduction of the infinite to the realistic. Still . . . here are just a few items I’ve pared from my to-do list:
Understand How the Human Body Works and Eat a Healthy Diet
In my brain, my body is a connected set of imaginary systems. As one brief example, kkin is an organ—although I don’t know what an organ is—that keeps all the juicy and bony things in, sort of a rucksack for blood and pus. It needs to be kept clean and occasionally have Band-Aids placed over leaks. Acne is a plague to teenagers and is best solved through prayer and seven daily showers. Rashes are the result of plants you didn’t notice or using the wrong soap. They are treated with calamine lotion, which no one has ever purchased but is available in every medicine chest. Blood leaks out of cuts, which need pressure, elevation and bandages. In the olden days, cuts could get infected and people would die. The internet seems to have solved this problem, except for tetanus, solved by a doctor sticking a needle in you on an unknown schedule.
As for diet, green vegetables are the best thing to eat; therefore no one likes them, and they must be hidden under cheese, butter or, preferably, meat. Fruit used to be good, but now it’s made of sugar, except for bananas, which prevent muscle cramps and dementia. If you own a sailboat, limes will prevent scurvy. Baked potatoes are healthy; fried are not. Hence, we add butter, bacon, sour cream and, to be healthy, chives to baked potatoes, rendering them both healthy and edible. As for red meat, don’t use it as a between-meal snack, except for beef or buffalo jerky, which prevents death. Chicken is good for you, but fish is better. Thus, the healthiest meal in existence is grilled swordfish, baked potato and asparagus with hollandaise sauce, which is also my favorite. This is a pleasant coincidence, not a case of special pleading.
Cross the Ocean Alone in a Rowboat
At 10, I got my first boat, a flat-bottomed wooden one perfect for traveling around Beard’s Creek, which almost encircled the peninsula on which I grew up. A fresh-water pond, the creek was separated by a lock under a bridge from the estuarial Oyster River; although I never did so, I pictured myself portaging across the highway, and launching my boat. From there, I would set out downriver, first to Little Bay, then to Great Bay, then to Portsmouth Harbor and finally out into the North Atlantic.
Using no accurate information, I estimated this 15-mile journey, if I traveled with the tide, would take about an hour. From there, I’d row to Greenland, the island, not the town abutting Portsmouth, which I guessed to take a full day. This guess would be accurate if I could row a little over 90 miles per hour. In the North Atlantic. For 24 hours. After spending a couple days on Greenland, digging in the snow to find the ruins of medieval towns, playing with sheep and penguins, and becoming friends with the skraelings, whom I pictured as a combination ghost and Eskimo. From Greenland, I’d row to Holland, do a little skating there, then finish up in England. Overall, I figured the journey would take me a week, a shortfall of unknown proportion made moot by my certain death.
Learn Latin and Greek Well Enough to Write in Them
While I’ve still got a smattering of Latin, it’s mainly in epigrams (“De mortuis nihil nisi bonum”), short phrases of academia (“opera citato” or op. cit.) or nonsense (“raptus regaliter” (royally screwed)). I couldn’t properly translate Latin into English even given a dictionary and more years than are left me on the planet. As for composing in the language, anything I wrote would be used as evidence of a severe head trauma.
My Greek ignorance is different but no less handicapping. While I can transliterate, that is read aloud, the language—which seems impressive in a parlor-trick kind of way—the only thing I’ve ever read is the New Testament, written in Koine not Attic Greek. This was useful for me as a minister-to-be-and-briefly-was, but didn’t include any composing, few churches look for their pastors to write new gospels in an ancient language. Even Joseph Smith found the Book of Mormon in “reformed Egyptian” (or “deformed English”) according to the LDS; he didn’t write it himself.
Because of my shortcoming, I am unable to write these columns in Latin or Greek, and you are unable to read them in those languages. Luckily or not, Google Translate exists, and I’ve put the title and first paragraph through translation from English to Greek to Latin and back to English:
Consciousness? Had a few. Here are some of them
60 How to approach him, do you not recognize that it was willing to do to begin to be to know the things that I wanted you to me for the purpose and to know the rest of it anywhere with a road journey. Since the end of my object was to be done, to do according unto all that which is impossible for you to know that you collected all, I am not able to live in the free, with the reality they are in harmony with this the cut. However. . . Here are a few items I picked up the task list:
Were I to use my limited Greek and Latin skills, I doubt very much my composition would have been much clearer, and most certainly would not have the poetry of “I am not able to live in the free.”