How does it all come out?
Teenagers, assuming that they think at all, think they are immortal. I know I thought I was immortal. And although when I was a teen I thought that I thought, I now look back and think: "I don't think so!"
Older people, assuming that they think at all, think differently. I know I do. Although I wouldn't be surprised if a later version of myself looked back on these thoughts and thought: "I don't think so."
Evolutionary psychology says there's a reason that young people think they immortal. Perhaps we'll discuss that another day. Practical psychology says that there's a reason why older people think otherwise and I'll talk about that now: As someone gets to my age, assuming they aren't already dead, they'll see more and more of their peers dying. The more dead friends, the more they'll believe that they'll follow the rule and not be the exception. I know I do.
I remember a conversation I had a few decades ago with Bill Harmon, the father of a friend. Bill was enough older that I thought he might be contemplating his own mortality and he was smart enough that I thought his insights might be useful.
He wasn't afraid of death, he told me, but it annoyed him to know that he wouldn't get to see how it all comes out.
My wife, Bobbi, a mythologist by inclination and training (possessor of a well-earned PdD in the subject) has taught me to look at life through story. And there are so many interesting stories!
At the macro level there's the story of the universe: one that's changed a lot since I first learned it in pre-big-bang days. We have a story about its evolution from those first, hot moments; we know a lot about its current story; and we we know that the universe's end is cold and dark, but perhaps not as bad as we think. At least if the ideas of the brilliant physicist Freeman Dyson has an interesting theory about the future of intelligence in the universe. Dyson says that intelligence is eternal. But is he right? Close to right? Unlikely we'll know how it turns out. But we can read his story, "Infinite in All Directions" here.
Then there's the story of the planet we call Earth, being reshaped by the upstart species that we belong to. That is, assuming you are the same kind of creature that I am.
I have three biological daughters that I know of--and I hope that's all of them--and I have 3 tenured sons, married or soon to be married to my daughters, all with interesting, evolving stories. I have five grandkids, each beginning their own stories. I have friends with stories. Branches of science and threads of technology I follow, each with their own stories. And there are the stories of softer subjects that I follow. For example, self referentially, there's the story of our unfolding understanding of story itself.
Old stories continue. New stories begin. Few stories truly end.
Mine will not end, It will go on without me, and slowly fade.
And sadly, I won't get to find out how it all comes out.