An Incredible Reminder of How Short Life Really Is
by Donald Miller
I’ve always been fascinated by that verse in the book of James that says our lives pass like a vapor. That’s a realization hard to internalize. I believe life is eternal, but I don’t believe we have a whole lot of time in this phase, the walk around on earth phase. I wish I could spend less time feeling the urgency of things that aren’t actually urgent and more time exchanging meaning with those people and causes that matter.
The Bible also speaks of the wisdom of numbering our days.
I’m just back from a beautiful wedding in Southern California. What I love about weddings and funerals is they remind us, in very different ways, about how short our lives really are. A funeral teaches us it ends. A wedding teaches us that in order to experience meaning we have to make decisions. We can’t keep looking at the menu forever, nor can we eat everything on it at once.
I found this nearly unknown video that helped me realize how short our lives actually are. I wanted to share it with you. It’s a film made by Jeroen Wolf who took to the streets of Amsterdam and asked people to look into the camera and state their age. It begins with a baby and ends with a woman in her hundredth year.
It’s only two minutes long, but the amazing thing is it feels just like life. It starts slow as though we are going to walk the earth forever, then suddenly at around twenty-seven, the voices change and the faces are suddenly adult. Then suddenly everybody seems old, then suddenly older, then as though they are in their final years, then it’s over.
The scary thing is life feels very long and by the time you realize it’s short, you’ve lived most of it.
After watching this two-minute clip, I wanted to live a life of deeper meaning. I wanted to do the work I love, the work that helps people. I wanted to give more away. I wanted to hold the woman I love. I wanted to read more poems. I wanted to plant something that would grow after I was gone. I didn’t want my name on anything, at least not anything that didn’t represent love.
What would you do if you only had one-hundred years to live?
IIn October 2011 I started documenting people in the city of Amsterdam, approaching them in the street and asking them to say their age in front of the camera. My aim was to ‘collect’ a group of 100 people, from age 0 to 100. At first my collection grew fast but slowed down when it got down to the very young and very old. The young because of sensivity around filming or photographing children and the very old because they don’t get out of the house much. I found my very old ‘models’ in care homes and it was a privilege to document these -often vulnerable- people for this project. I had particular problems finding a 99 year-old. (Apparently 100 year-olds enjoy notoriety, but a 99 year-old is a rare species…) And when I finally did find one, she refused to state her age. She simply denied being 99 years old! But finally, some 4 months after I recorded my first ‘age’, I was able to capture the ‘missing link’ and conclude this project. Enjoy.
(By the way: together these people have lived 5050 years…)
Shot on a Panasonic GH2
Lenses: mostly a Cosmicar 25mm 1.4 and a Panasonic 20mm 1.7