Are we ‘ourselves’ because of ‘When?’

Have you ever wondered what you would have done to earn your living had your lifespan run its course in an earlier time period?

From a macro view, would your profession have been the same work you do now?

Remember, macro view.

If you currently design complex computer micro circuitry, perhaps in 900 B.C. you could have developed the best pathways (macro view) leading to and from your village or town? Who knows?

I have wondered about time period lifespan. Or I should say, I gave this type of “What if?” a great many hours of thought during the first weeks of February.

On Feb. 17, at 10:40 p.m., my father-in-law took his final breath. He was a retired public school mathematics teacher who, along with his wife — herself a retired nurse practitioner — retired again after they served as foreign missionaries the better part of 20 years.

Mom died in 2011.

Dad, 81, left this life surrounded by family members who were literally piled on his hospital bed as he silently departed. This visually stunning epilogue of his life-book indicated the family who now lives on, regard dad’s preceding decades as years that most certainly embody a life well lived.

For 20 days prior to that Tuesday night, my family — most notably and admirably my sister-in-law, along with my wife — spent hours and hours in his hospital room. Their elbows and arms and hands freely breached the plastic rails that lined his bedside. Their touch comforted a man, who though strong in spirit and mind, was — as are we all — housed in a body that one day, will absolutely fail.

Prior to his death, during stretches of relative quiet in dad’s room, I began to wonder whether I would have given a rip about hydroelectric generation facilities if I had lived in an earlier time period.

I mean come on, before I became associate editor of Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide in October 2014, I was a managing editor for several publications. But, none of the publications had anything to do with hydro and definitely was not on my professional radar screen.

As I continued to ponder life in different time periods, I realized what I had done in a couple of instances while at the hospital.

In one instance, I spoke with the nurse who took care of dad while he was in the intensive care unit, and I learned her husband was a geologist. We — the nurse and I — proceeded to have a discussion about dam aprons.

A few days later after dad was transferred to another floor, a different nurse who tended to dad’s care told me her husband is a structural engineer. During the week of Feb. 1 he had returned from Zambia, a country on the African continent. We — she and I — proceeded to discuss the monetary inequity that power producers and dam owners have, versus working class Zambians’ ability to purchase power.

It was then I realized my id — the id being what many think is the only component of personality that is present from birth.

Inevitably, my thoughts returned to dad.

I began to wonder: Would he have been a minister, specifically a teacher of the Word, in another time period? Or, would his life have been devoted to teaching others (the macro) absent theology or mathematics?

Was his id teaching?

I do not know. And for that matter, no one knows absolute answers to conjecture.

I do know, however, that I have been seeking information and telling it, since the time I was able to speak in complete sentences.

For my father-in-law, whom I have known for 31 years, his actions indicate he viewed life as an opportunity to learn and then teach. Learn, and then teach. Learn…teach.

Yes, he had math and ministry acumen, but his essence was that of a teacher. And then, at the core of his essence, dad loved people.

The question I ask: Did dad lovingly teach people because his 20th century training afforded him modern academic knowledge?

In answering the question, I say, “No.”

I choose to think: We are whom we are, no matter when we are.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for

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