This Is It

I went to the doctor today at the NYU Clinical Cancer Center. I don’t have cancer. But at one point a few years back I had a scare, and now I have to go in routinely to make sure that that thing I didn’t have hasn’t come back. Anyway, I was in there with the fancy surgeon who specializes in a particularly gnarly kind of cancer that doesn’t generally have a good outcome, as they say. He told me that I was fine.

So then I asked him how he was. He said, “I’m bored.” He was wearing a really nice suit. He’s one of those very well-groomed, handsome men in his forties with silver hair and bright blue eyes that looks like he spends his weekends with a blonde on a boat. I said, “Really? With what you do, you must see some pretty heavy things,” and he said, “Yeah, well, you know, it’s all the same after a while.” Then he backtracked a bit, like you would if you’d said that. A moment later he repeated his thought, “But I’m bored. I guess I’m having a midlife crisis.”

Bored. Some dharma cohorts and I were given the assignment recently of contemplating, a couple of hours a day, precious human birth (as they say in the business) and impermanence. So, like: How amazing is it that we’re, say, Starbucks-drinking, J. Crew-buying, three-D-glasses-sporting humans living under Barack Obama, rather than baby chickens being sent down a funnel and ground up alive? Think of the opportunities we have! Or, I took a crowded subway to 34th Street today, and wasn’t blown up by two suicide bombers—fucking thank God, no kidding—or hit, when I emerged from under ground, by a cabdriver drinking a Starbucks and checking his email on his iPhone. My daughter is alive and well. Someday, if she’s lucky, she’ll be an old woman. My dog, Scout, suffering from canine dementia, really, really enjoyed his morning cookies. Someday soon he won’t. And someday soon I won’t be around to give out cookies: I don’t have a lot of time left, that is, to do something really worthwhile.

Anyway, I said, “Wow, there are a lot of great things to do out there instead of being bored.” And he said, “Like what?” What could I say. I’d sound like a religious fanatic. You can’t just say to someone: Look up at the sky. Feel the rain on your face. Take the subway home. Tell your wife and kids that you love them. You can’t just say, This is it. You won the lottery: It is your lucky day.