Three years into exile, and I knew that I would become “old” soon enough. Maybe I was already. I hoped to be one of those people who enjoyed good health and a sharp mind right up until the end, but for many people, some sort of affliction came with the territory of old age.

I knew that Alzheimer’s disease, a cancer growing in this or that vital part, coronary artery disease, and stroke were among the many terrifying maladies that might be awaiting my arrival. Whatever the malady that would dog me through my last days, there did not seem to be any good reason to spend valuable time thinking about it too much.

The prospect of affliction could not easily be ignored, but no amount of thinking about what that place would look like or how it would feel to me was going to map its location with any greater precision.

Time would run out sometime, probably within twenty-five years. I had read that the limit on human longevity was around 120 years, and so maybe I had fifty years—certainly no longer than that. For the time being, I felt healthy, and it was part of my way of being to do what I could to stay that way.

Lacking a consuming passion or inspiring mission that would have defined a meaning for my life, I felt that my purpose was to find a kind of joy, to delight in beauty, to be interested in what was new to me and to pursue what I did not know.

I believed that we were meant to feel what it was to be alive. The urge to feel existence was involved somehow in the creation of life itself.

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