This week’s question is from The Book of Questions:
Would you want to spend a week as someone of the opposite sex? someone very old? very beautiful? very ugly? or severely handicapped? If so, which one would most intrigue you?
Tim’s Answer: Tough one. Any of these would be immensely fascinating and enlightening. I think there are two things to think about when choosing.
1) What would be the most fun/interesting?
2) What would be the most useful?
When thinking about #1, one thing I’d keep in mind is that it’s probably a good idea to spend a week as someone in a worse situation than my current situation, because it would be much more fun to come back to being me and be like, “Oh thank god” instead of coming back and being like, “Shit.”
As for #2, I see the two most useful things to gain from the experience as A) appreciation and gratitude for your current life, and B) empathy and understanding for others. Each answer to the question would offer a different mix of A and B.
I think my final answer would be to spend a week as a 96-year-old man. Two main reasons:
First, I could have a ton of fun in public. You can get away with anything if you’re a 96-year-old man. And people’s expectations for you are insanely low, so almost anything you did would impress people.
Second, having been an old man would serve me the most in my current life. If I’m lucky, I’ll be an old man one day—it’s the thing I’m slowly turning into. And I know that when I am an old man, I’ll definitely think all kinds of “It would be so nice/fun/useful to be young again” and “If only I had realized how lucky I was when I had a young body and brain” thoughts. And even though I know now that I’ll think these things later, it would be much easier to permanently absorb the incredible privilege of being me if I could spend a week dealing with what it’ll be like when that privilege is gone.