How many more bars of soap will I buy before I die?

January 21, 2008 | By | 6 Replies More

Today, I find myself wondering how many more bars of soap I will buy before I die.  How many more bars of soap will I buy ever?  What brought this on?

I recently went to Costco.  I needed soap and Costco sells big packs of soap at a good price.  Therefore, I bought a pack of 16-bars of soap. 

 soap pack - lo rez.jpg

It is going to take a lot of time to work through 16 bars of soap.  I live with three other people (two of them are tiny).  To properly do the calculation, I would need to know how long a bar of soap lasts.  One month? Two months?  Whatever the exact answer is, the disarming thing is that it’s going to be many months before my household will need to buy any more soap.  It might be a year or two.  Assuming that each bar of soap lasts one month and that I have about 400 months to live, simple math shows that I’ll only need to buy 25 more packs of soap. Ever.

I don’t often consciously think about the amount of time I have left on the planet, but I’m aware of it.  I suspect that this thought drives me along and encourages me to try to get more out of each day.  Not that this type of motivator is always good or healthy, however.  That kind of “clock is running down” thinking can backfire and lead to a semi-desperate method of trying to get things done.  Writing the previous sentence reminded me of a well-known quote by race car driver Mario Andretti: “If everything’s under control, you’re going too slow.”

At 51-years of age, I have been fortunate to have lived a long interesting life.  I crave more, however, just like many other people in the middle of their lives.  I don’t want to be thinking that I will only travel to San Francisco one or two more times, ever.  I don’t want to consider that I might only need to buy three or four more wallets before I’m dead.  Or that I might’ve already bought my last paper dictionary.  Thinking about these things frustrates me.  Maybe it’s because thinking in this way makes life too much about me.  I’m certainly not the only one on this planet, so I need to be careful to not keep thinking about me.  Not that I dislike myself.  “We” to along quite well.  It’s just that there’s so many other people out there, I don’t want to overlook that I’m only one tiny part of a much larger whole. I’m part of a society that will continue on for a long time long after I’m dead. This is the way Mother Nature (that amoral lass) has set it all up.  Further, I doubt that Earth is the only planet in the universe with sentient beings.  I might be a whole lot less of what is important than I ever dreamed.

And it’s not only a matter of sharing a universe with other people who currently exist.  My life is necessarily also about people who are about to be born and those who will be born in 50 more years.

So I need to stop thinking about the existential relevance of big packs of soap from Costco.  Those thoughts are, at bottom, narcissistic.  Thinking that the earth somehow needs my living carcass in order to get by is absurd.  This wacky thought about my alleged indispensability reminds me of another quote, this one by Charles de Gaulle: “The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.”

This thought about my indispensability is as absurd as the many religions that encourage believers to think that the Creator of the universe takes time out from His caretaking regarding the entire universe to fret about them.  Those zany religious people, who might quit their religions if it weren’t for the fact that their religions offer a big something for them. 

We could think a lot about ourselves and our frail mortal bodies. Whether the excuse is soap or the hope of heaven, though, we’ve got to stop thinking this way before life completely passes us by.

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Category: Meaning of Life, Quotes, Religion, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. Ben says:

    One of my relatives died, and we went to clean out the apartment, and found at least 10 years worth of soap. On a lighter note, Costo is very good on reliability and quality, but you won't save money over going to the supermarket unless you actually USE what you buy. Especially perishable items – I have literally thrown away hundreds of pounds of uneaten food from there.

    In terms of the meaning of life and death, and/or having an impact/legacy on the universe: I am bothered by human/animal suffering, and I often feel guilty that I am not "out there doing something".

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    The ancient Greeks had a special admonition for those which had just won an Olympic event; "Die now!"

    The thought was that no other event could ever surpass the moment of triumph an Olympian had in victory so it was best for them to die immediately, and not suffer the degredations of eventual loss and decrepitude that life lays upon us all.

    I have been blessed with a loving family, good friends and work which allows me to make a difference. Sometimes that difference may save a life, which Maimonides says is like "saving a universe."

    Live each day as though the end would be to "Die now!" Whatever you may or may not accomplish is immaterial to most everyone else but, live as though the day were your last, and know that if it ends in death that all of us die but, not all of us die well. "Die now!" my friends, and die well!

  3. My Italian grandfather's version of your rather sad soap countdown was to imagine the number of chickens he had eaten in his life gathered together in one place. "Quite a flock," he would say, shaking his head and wondering how many more would be added before the end.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's a fast-forward illustration of this same issue: http://blog.mpdairy.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/0

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    I just pulled out the last bar of soap on that big pack. Therefore that was a three year pack. I don't have too terribly many of those left in my life.

  6. Ben says:

    Try your local flea market for hand-crafted scented soaps. Good soap belongs in the "more expensive but worth it" category.

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