Thou shalt remember thy PIN! © 2010 Summersdale Publishers Ltd
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
— Psalm 90:12
Every second counts. Every minute counts. These sound more like clichés to many of us that few would pay attention to. Most of us live our lives as if there’ll be many more tomorrows. For the rest of us who are nearing, or have lived past, the half life, mortality is no longer a topic we can conveniently dismiss. Some try to ignore it, or pretend that age is just a number, or that they’re young at heart—they “psycho themselves” to think or speak like folks from the Positive Thinking or New Age movement.
The Three-Scores-and-Ten Lifespan
The Holy Scriptures tell us that the majority of us are approximately given a three-scores-and-ten lifespan; for a blessed minority, it’d be extended to four scores and ten—90 years. The names of two ex-political ethical leaders cross my mind: Nelson Mandela and Lee Kuan Yew.
Even with medical breakthroughs in recent decades, a look at the obituary pages in the papers every day shows that the average lifespan of a man or woman has remained fairly constant for centuries—even with women living an average of 3 to 5 years longer than men, depending on which continent of the world they live in.
Is age a mere psychological figure? “I am seventy years young!”
The Billionth Heartbeat
For most part of human history, the billionth heartbeat has defined the length of a man’s days. Even today, that nine-zero figure remains fairly constant in a number of African or developing countries. But, thanks to medical advances and better standards of living, many in developed nations can live up to about two to three billion heartbeats.
A Satanic Alert
If you’re more of an apocalyptic type, then you’re more likely to define your mortality in terms of some multiple of the beast number. This means you’ve about 888 months during your earthly stay to live in a manner that could reduce your odds of joining folks like Idi Amin Dada, Saddam Hussein, and Adolf Hitler.
Not all dozing folks on the bus are dead! © 2003 Summersdale Publishers Ltd
Mortality and Eternity
Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. —Psalm 39:4
It’s easy to count our age and the number of years we’ve lived, but it’s difficult to count the number of our remaining days—we simply can’t count from the future.
Perhaps, we need to pray the psalmist’s prayer: Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
In Job 14:5, we read: Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.
Elsewhere, Jesus told Peter: “I alone control the length of a man’s days.”
No doubt, our days are numbered, and how can we make wise use of them? How do we frame our finite days in the light of eternity? How do we break away from living unremarkably average lives? How can we plan not just for a big, meaningful day or event, but also for a big, meaningful life?
It’s high time we stop kidding ourselves: We don’t have 500 years to live. If we realize that our average lifespan of “three scores and ten” years on earth—about two to three billion heartbeats, depending on our location, position, or station in life—are insignificant in the light of eternity, we’ll value what are important: Love God and His people.
What would you define as your “prime years”?
Math Educators, What’s Your Legacy?
With The Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
— 2 Peter 3:8
For us, math educators, how can we move more to the right side of the bell curve when it comes to impacting the lives of others in some areas of mathematics education? How can we say NO to living mediocre mathematical lives, although we may not presently have all the necessary tools in our mathematical toolkit to reach out to those whom we long to positively influence?
Is fifty the new thirty-five?
A Spiritual Formula for Longevity
Let me leave you with some verses that may hold the key to seeing you live beyond the billionth heartbeat—three verses that may be worth keeping in your heart.
“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—”that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life in the earth.”
Exodus 20:12 (The 6th Commandment):
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
Number your days. More than a million people die every single week. Think about it. You made it another week! You’re better off than a million folks. You can thank God that you’re alive. Make “numbering your days” a priority in your mathematical journey!
1. How many times does the heart beat in a person’s lifetime? How do the figures vary for those living in developed and developing countries?
2. Show that most folks have an average of 888 months to live on this side of eternity.
3. Based on a two- or three-billion-heartbeat lifespan, or depending on the continent you are living in, what fraction of your lifetime have you lived? How do you plan to spend the remaining of it meaningfully?
Solomon, R. M. (2012). Reflections on time & eternity. Singapore: Genesis Books.
Summersdale Publishers Ltd (2011). Old is the new young. UK: Summersdale Publishers Ltd.
Fraser, B. (2010). You know you’re having a senior moment when…. West Sussex, UK: Summersdale Publishers Ltd.
Fraser, B. (2003). You know you’re getting old when…. West Sussex, UK: Summersdale Publishers Ltd.
© Yan Kow Cheong, July 27, 2013.