Monday, November 26, 2007

44 Seconds

“Out, out brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow.”
-- Bill Shakespeare –

Yesterday and today, I have succeeded in asking all of my colleages at work a very simple, yet off-putting question. [You can try this yourself right here, it will be fun, I promise you].
One by one, and only when alone, I have presented the following preamble and question:
“I am only allowing you two to three seconds to answer this question OK? I want your first impression, not a mathematically worked out equation. It’s very simple, and it is not a trick question. Remember. TWO or THREE seconds, I want a quick answer. If you take longer than that, I don’t wanna hear it. Ready?”
[They nod, because they know I am weird, and they love me for it....]
“OK, here goes. Here is the question.....”

The average human lifetime consists of HOW MANY DAYS?

One Mississippi... two Mississippi.... three Mississippi.
Any longer than this and the person disqualifies themself from my experiment, because what I am looking for is not how well someone does cranial algebra... I am looking for IMPRESSION..... for IDEA!
For.... pre-conceptions!
And Holy Hypotenuse! Did I ever hear some doozies for answers!
The most bizarre (I am not kidding)... was one guy who blurted out “Eight million!”
No actually the worst was one fellow who said “400”..... so I rephrased the question and then he said some astronomical amount. Most people though, when asked, said around 90,000 to 100,000.... stuff like that.
Amazingly, only one person even came close to what a reasonable estimate would be. He said 30,000.
All in all, this two days of research makes me glad that I am not working at a place that is trying to eliminate cancer from the earth, or build better nuclear reactors!
No, we’s just simple folk..... and with all due respect for those I spend nine hours a day with, the question isn’t all that easy if you have not given it any thought before.
The truth of the matter is this.
Average lifespan around the world is around double what it was 200 years ago. It is now around 65 for men, and 70 for women. Remember, this is WORLDWIDE. When we begin to look at specific countries, Japan wins the longevity contest, with men usually cashing in the chips at 77.6 years, and women saying “sayonara” at 84 to 85 years.
British men are saying “cheerio” at 75, while the dames are dropping the teacup on the floor a few months shy of 80.
French dudes are kickin’ it at 74.9 while the femmes are saying “fermez la porte” at 82.4.
In the U.S. of A., men are living to 72 and women to 79.

I am giving all these stats to show how I arbitrarily arrive at my own personal benchmark of 74 years.
I am going to be somewhat generous and say that most of us are probably going to say goodbye to it all at around 74.
So.... having said this.... how many days are there in 74 years?
Answer: 26,645.

74 years = 888 months = 3,848 weeks = 26,645 days = 648,240 hours = less than 40,000,000 seconds.
None of us will live for a million hours.
Not since the earlier pages of Genesis have people routinely lived for millions of hours.
To live just one million hours, you would have to be 114 years old.

Can I tell you now what fascinates me the most about the length of time that we do live, whether it be 70 years or 80 years or 95 years? Or even TEN years?
What fascinates me the most is how hard our hearts work during that time!
Just think for a moment of the earliest memory that you can recall. Perhaps a family vacation when you were a child. Or a pet dog you got for your fourth or fifth birthday, something like that.
Now consider, from that time to this moment..... your heart has been pumping like mad!
Never stopping. Never taking a day, or even a moment off. Never missing a cue.
Recently I read a book by Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland (a surgeon), and of the heart, he said:
“Pushing out about 70 milliliters of blood (2 1/3rd ounces) with each contraction, this vigorous pump drives some 7 million milliliters (more than 14,000 pints) each day, in 100,000 rhythmic and powerful beats.”
OK, so I got the calculator fired up again....

Nuland’s observation means that if you are 40 years old, your heart has already re-directed 25,550,000 (25 ½ million) GALLONS of blood through your body in an endless series of 1,460,000,000 flawlessly orchestrated convulsions! Almost a billion and a half times! It has never taken a weekend off, and even while you slept, it carried on.
If that is not fascinating, I don’t know what is. A half pound of meat, does all this work.

OK, so I want to put into perspective now..... try to visualize what is being talked about here.
I think of Niagara Falls.

I LOVE Niagara Falls and I have been there perhaps ten times in my lifetime.
At peak periods, 150,000 gallons of water a SECOND pour over the American side of the Falls, and over on the Canadian side (shown in the image, above), it is 580,000 gallons. A second.
This translates to almost 35 million gallons per minute over Horseshoe Falls.

Over a period of just forty years, your heart has already pumped 25.5 million gallons of blood.
This is the equivalent of the amount of water cascading over the American Niagara for 170 seconds, or nearly three minutes. And at Horseshoe Falls.... it is the equivalent of 44 seconds of the thunderous cataract.
44 seconds.
Believe me, I have stood at those Falls many a time, the spray on my face.
That’s a lot of water.
That’s a lot of blood.
2 1/3rd ounces at a time.
No man-made machine in the history of the world is as efficient as your heart is.

Put your hand over your heart.
If you are somewhere around 40 years old, you have had nearly a minute’s worth of Niagara Falls go on under that ribcage.
And you, like me, have been largely oblivious of the sheer mechanical frenzy of who you are.
One minute gone.
One minute left.


Cleo said...

If you're like me and your personal Niagara Falls momentarily STOPPED at some point, for even the briefest amount of time, when it begins its thunderous cascade anew, you never, ever forget its awesome beauty and grandeur again. Cheers to you, Cip, for appreciating both the internal and external majesty of it all.

Dorothy W. said...

Okay -- that's really cool. Thanks for all the numbers -- I'm impressed!

Shark said...

Call me crazy, but isn't this an exact post from a few years ago?

stefanie said...

Pretty freaking miraculous, isn't it?

I will admit to getting the hours wrong. I am no mathematician. My first thought was 80 years then, how many days is that? Must be a lot, like 100,000 or something. To me 80 years sounds like a long time. 30,000 days doesn't sound like enough. All a matter of perspective I suppose.

Melanie said...

I agree with Stefanie - somehow, saying 30,000 days does not sound very long, not as long as 80 yrs for sure. It makes me want to use every one of those so few days to DO things.

cipriano said...

May it never....... happen to you again.
You're welcome! I carry an abacus.
Very perceptive of you. Some of my blogs are so good I want to repeat them.
I really think the HEART is the most miraculous thing about us. Have you ever seen the video-clip of where two "heart" cells are pushed together and they begin pumping together? It is awe-inspiring!
Agreed. Live each day [starting right now] as though it were your last.