The Brevity of a Human Life

(This article was reprinted in ,” Humanity+ Magazine, June 30, 2014)

I came across the interesting visuals found below—which convey the briefness and fleetingness of a human life—at the blog waitbutwhy.com. Some may find them depressing. Perhaps they enjoy their lives and don’t want to contemplate their brevity, or maybe they detest their lives and realize how little time they have to change them. Others may find the visuals uplifting. Perhaps they help them realize a life is precious and shouldn’t be wasted, or maybe they find consolation that some suffering they endure is not interminable. Whether you find the visuals depressing or uplifting, they communicate the reality of the brevity of a human life is. So remember life is short. Enjoy it and try to help others or your time has been wasted. Here are the visuals.

This is a long human life in years.

A Human Life in Years

This is a long human life in months.

This is a long human life in weeks.

Each row of weeks makes up one year. That’s how many weeks it takes to turn a newborn into a 90-year-old. It feels like our lives are made up of a countless number of weeks. But there they are—fully countable—staring you in the face.

Before we discuss things further, let’s look at how a typical American spends their weeks:

American Life in Weeks

Conclusion – Well there it is; that’s your brief life. You may think that having 20 or 40 or 60 years to live is a long time, but that’s only 240 or 480 or 720 months. And a month goes by quickly. Enjoy your life while you can and help others. If you do you will have few regrets.

3 thoughts on “The Brevity of a Human Life

  1. You deal in ethics. If you could have near immortality but at the cost of you personally killing an infant every 20 years or so, would you take that deal? Given that resources are finite essentially that’s what immortality for some boils down to, without getting one’s hands that dirty of course.

    It could be argued that just as western countries are reducing their birthrate so too humans would be as Tolkien’s elves eventually, producing fewer and fewer children. This is still a denial of would-be lives and in a more severe way since as opposed to bending a growth curve we’d be talking about generating a dramatic net reduction. It’s a more tenuous argument on its face but in practical terms it would mean an interesting surrender in the natural genetic arms race we have with all our pathogens (since our generational and mutational rates would crash, we’d fall out of sync with the evolutionary rate of other organisms) but presumably we’d be relying entirely on technology rather than nature.

  2. When you look at how long 90 years on paper is seems like a long time, but many people don’t live that long or don’t realize that they have lived 90 years. I think that these diagrams show the importance of living every moment. That is different for each person, for instance college, job, family, ect. What you decide to do with your life, I believe is important. You should live for you and do what you want to do, not what others want. These pictures show that you spend a majority of your life working, either in school or at a job, so it is important to make sure that you make the most out of your schooling and that you find a career that you enjoy. The quote “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” is a perfect example of living every moment you have.

    Although these pictures show the life span of 90 years, many people don’t life that long, some pass away at young ages while others pass away when they are older, but don’t make it to 90.

    No matter what and how long you live, your life will never be long enough, which again is why I truly believe that it is important to life every moment as if it was your last, you never know when your last moment will be.

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