Saturday, September 23, 2017

Midlife Crisis Year One: Thoughts on 41

Birthdays are a time to stop and contemplate one’s life, to celebrate another revolution around the sun.  And of course to eat some cake.

Last year marked my 40th birthday.  I wondered, “Which midlife crisis is right for me?”  My next birthday is nearly upon me, so it’s natural to reflect on how that midlife crisis has been going.  

haven’t done much with music, although I did finish a short story and submitted it to a Philosophy Through Fiction contest.  It didn't win, but I’ve been meaning to send it somewhere else.  As far as international travel, I’ve been invited to a conference in Germany in November, which also affords me a chance to visit a friend in the Netherlands.  I’ve never been to either country, so I’m really excited about that.

As I noted last year starting to figure out your career is a common midlife activity as well.  On that note, I’m working on an academic book on skepticism in classical India under contract with Lexington Books.  The tentative title is: The Three Pillars of Skepticism in Classical India: Nāgārjuna, Jayarāśi, and Śrī Harṣa.  With some luck, I should finish the manuscript by the end of this year and the book will be published in 2018 or 2019.

I’m teaching a new course I developed called World Philosophy, which is a cross-cultural introductory course.  It has been a lot of fun to introduce philosophy in a way that doesn’t put Europe in the center of everything, instead seeing Europe as merely one among many springs of philosophical activity.  Hopefully I’m taking what Dipesh Chakrabarty calls “provincializing Europe” into the philosophy curriculum.

In the spring I hope to teach a class on philosophy and popular culture that will focus on science fiction literature and film from a philosophical angle.  I haven’t settled on everything yet, but I will definitely have the students read some of my favorites like Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler in addition to watching films like The Matrix and Total Recall.  I hope the students might be able to tell me what 2001: A Space Odyssey is about.  Maybe we can discuss upcoming things like Star Trek: Discovery and Star Wars Episode VIII.  I might even have the students write short stories or produce short films.  I’ll definitely have the students read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for a unit on the meaning of life.

Speaking of The Hitchhiker's Guide, I’m eagerly anticipating my next birthday, when I will finally come to understand the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.  In the meantime here’s a repeat of something I said two years ago that still expresses my thoughts on birthdays.
The fact that we are alive to experience the beauty, horror, and mystery of the universe is pretty cool. Birthdays are a time to reflect on the incalculably precious privilege of becoming a speck of the universe that, for however short a time, is able to contemplate life, the universe, and everything.  That’s something worth celebrating!  
So happy birthday to me and to you, dear readers, whenever your next birthday may be! 


Kindly enjoy Weird Al Yankovic's "Happy Birthday," the most profound song about birthdays ever composed.


  1. Happy birthday.

    As I get older, I have less and less hope that I'm going to find the answer to any of the Big Questions. But I'm more and more okay with that.

    Isaac Newton (I think it was Isaac Newton) said he'd trade a decade of his life for a chance to live for one day several hundred years in the future, to see what had been done and figured out. That seems like a decent compromise to figuring out all of the answer before I die.

    1. Thank you!

      I don't actually hold out much hope of finding the answers anymore than the answer in Hitchhiker's Guide is really all that satisfying. But I hope to keep thinking about it.

      I would love to see the future in hundreds of years, too. The best we can probably do, though, is to do our part to make that future better for whoever those people will be.