Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short. Here’s one way of putting things in perspective: the first modern humans appeared on the plains of Africa at least 200,000 years ago, and scientists estimate that life, in some form, will persist for another 1.5bn years or more, until the intensifying heat of the sun condemns the last organism to death. But you? Assuming you live to be 80, you’ll have had about 4,000 weeks.

When I first made that calculation, I felt queasy; but once I’d recovered, I started pestering my friends, asking them to guess – off the top of their heads, without doing any mental arithmetic – how many weeks they thought the average person could expect to live. One named a number in the six figures. Yet, as I felt obliged to inform her, a fairly modest six-figure number of weeks – 310,000 – is the approximate duration of all human civilisation since the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. On almost any meaningful timescale, as the contemporary philosopher Thomas Nagel has written, “we will all be dead any minute”.

And so distraction truly matters – because your experience of being alive consists of nothing other than the sum of everything to which you pay attention. At the end of your life, looking back, whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment is simply what your life will have been. When you pay attention to something you don’t especially value, it’s not an exaggeration to say that you’re paying with your life…

—  Oliver Burkeman, from At best, we’re on Earth for around 4,000 weeks —  so why do we lose so much time to online to online distraction? (The Guardian, August 7, 2021)


  1. Well, THIS stopped me dead in my tracks. Was just thinking this past weekend that I had been spending “too much time letting the turkeys get me down,” so to speak. This piece more eloquently captures the dangers of doing that….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. wow, just wow. and yes. be careful how you spend your very small bank account of weeks.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Were it not for the brevity of weeks, I’d go back to bd and pull the pillow lever my head – better to go for a walk.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is a perfect post to follow yesterday’s. Gives me even more reason to not want to waste my time doing something I don’t enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Depressing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Now I’m depressed. Heh.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. so that’s 4,000 times I have to take out the trash every Tuesday… and even worse, that means there are 4,000 Mondays in there… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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