10.13.2006

"Happy Birthday": Mortality and my mortgage


"Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" -- said at the coronation of the pope

"I'll sleep when I'm dead" -- Warren Zevon

If I was in a really pessimistic mood I would start this by quoting Job's curse of the night of his creation: "May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, 'A boy is born!'" but that would be a bit over the top, even for me.

Two related events happened this week: I made the first payment on my new mortgage (only 359 payments to go!) and I turned 41.

It would have been nice to get a 15 year mortgage but I am a person of limited means so I wound up putting down a large amount of principal on my new place and getting a conventional 30 year fixed rate mortgage. I put down a lot of money up front to try and minimize the size my mortgage payments because I fear that property taxes and energy costs may escalate dramatically in the future, putting me in a really untenable situation. Home ownership is heavily subsidized (interest and taxes are deductible, and these deductions are not adjusted for income, which is a joke) but still I am in a somewhat precarious position. Home ownership: American dream or nightmare?

But another aspect of this is that if I stay where I am for the duration of the mortgage (which is unlikely) I will 71 years old when the loan is paid off: What will the world look like in 30 years? Will the 21st century be an "American Century"? Or Chinese? Or Indian? Or will there be some enormous cataclysm that will make it such that it will be no one's century? One has to wonder.

In the future, what will winters in Vermont be like? Will snow be a thing of the distant past? Perhaps the heated sidewalks at Spruce Peak will be quite unneeded... What energy sources will be available? Will private vehicles powered by internal combustion engines be obsolete? Permafrost is melting, methane is bubbling, glaciers retreating, etc. Look around, the changes are evident, if you take the time to be still and observe.

I'm a great believer in the idea that the way things are now may not be how things will be in the future... and with all the ominous possibilities it is hard to imagine that this will all end happily. Who knows? Maybe putting money into my retirement fund is quite unnecessary? Maybe I'll get run over by a truck while riding to my bike work tomorrow.

Another thing to consider is that I'm 41 now and am single and childless: So if it hasn't happened yet it seems unlikely to happen in the future. One consequence of this is that my life resembles Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray", I look and feel pretty much the same as I did when I was younger. Is this a good or a bad thing?

Photo #1: My college yearbook (Vassar College '87) photo: Who is this smartass? My 20th college reunion will be in spring 2007. I haven't decided if I will attend or not, I am very conflicted about the whole Vassar experience. Future blog fodder for sure.



Photo #2: Hiking in the Adirondacks, October 2006 (exactly 20 years later). It is like The Picture of Dorian Gray! Unscarred (mostly) by the ravages of time! What's going on? As I get older I haven't (thankfully) gotten any fatter, I still have most of my hair, and I am still pretty fit. So things could be a lot worse even as the world goes to hell in the proverbial handbasket.

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