Back to the birthday. I don’t feel anguish at being 60 years of age. Instead, I’m astonished at how the time has flown. What happened to that gawky high school student and when was he replaced by the grey-headed gent in the mirror?
But it’s okay. Time passes and memories are accumulated, most of them good memories. And the support you’ve shown me over my first 200 blog posts is certainly among the good ones.
Nor do I have plans to end this blog anytime soon. My father lived to be 88. My mother will turn 82 next month and is going strong. With any luck, a thousand blog posts or more aren’t out of the question. (Although I remain willing to share the writing task if anyone is interested. You know where to find me.)
Meanwhile, the motivation to write remains strong. Blaise Pascal was a brilliant mathematician of the 17th century. Near the height of his creative genius, he left the world of mathematics to throw himself into religion. His argument, which is still known as Pascal’s Wager, was that if there was a god, spending full-time in worship was appropriate. And if there wasn’t a god, then mathematics didn’t matter. So the only rational course was to believe in god and to abandon mathematics.
Perhaps it’s presumptuous to argue with one of the most brilliant minds of all time, but maybe it’s my day to be presumptuous. I believe Pascal had a third option. To believe that there might be a god who prefers that we spend our energies in making life better for his creatures, not in following religious dogma.
I once worked with a very competent engineer. He believed firmly that engineers should base decisions on data. He argued that “The only rational position for an engineer is agnosticism.” That sounds right to me. I can’t prove the existence of any particular god, but neither can I disprove one. So atheism would be as much of a leap of faith as religion.
(This isn’t meant to criticize those of faith. There are days when I envy your beliefs, even if I find them puzzling. And as John Lennon wrote, “Whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright, it’s alright.”)
If there is a god (and I hope there is) and if there is an afterlife (and I hope there is), then my belief is that the admission ticket to the best seats in the afterlife should be awarded based not on conformance to dogma, but on service to fellow human beings and to the world they share.
Once I decided that secular service was a third path in response to Pascal’s Wager, there were a number of options that I could have pursued. I find that arguing for more urbanist land-use patterns is a reasonable one. I believe that urbanism will give humankind more opportunities to thrive, and better odds to survive, in an uncertain future. Besides, the cause resonates with me. So here I am and here I will continue.
Now, I’m off to celebrate. Or to begin writing my next blog post. (They might be the same things.)
P.S. My sister, doing what sisters are good at, began my day by emailing me a quote from Washington Irving, "After a man passes sixty, his mischief is mainly in his head.”
With all due respect for his skills as a writer, I think Irving failed to adequately foretell the 21st century. (If I can challenge the wisdom of Blaise Pascal, questioning Washington is nothing.) In the 21st century, the post-60 man remains capable of mischief both on-line and in public forums.
Scheduling Notes and Follow-Ups
The Petaluma Urban Chat conversation last week was great. The only shortcoming was that the reading assignment extended only through Section I of Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City”. The real meat of the book is in Section II, so we left ourselves without much of a bone to chew.
However, everyone, especially those who had begun Section II, found the book particularly readable and informative, so we decided to read all of Section II by the next Urban Chat, which will be Thursday, April 9.
If you haven’t done so already, I highly suggest securing “Walkable City”. And then I suggest joining us in April.
Also, the Petaluma Planning will begin consideration of the Petaluma Station Area Plan at their regular meeting on Tuesday, March 26. The public is invited to the meeting, which will begin in the City Council chambers at 7:00pm.
Finally, last week’s post on “Jake’s Walks” didn’t receive the response for which I had hoped. Not one person offered a route for an urban walk in their own communities. However, several folks, including some not from Petaluma, were intrigued by the Petaluma walk I described and asked if we could schedule a group walk along my route. No date has yet been picked, but perhaps we can do something on the day of Jane’s Walk, which is Saturday, May 4. What do others think?
As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated. Please comment below or email me. And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (firstname.lastname@example.org)