See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Birthday Thoughts

First, thanks to Peggy, who is studying computer graphics for this pic. She says it's not her best effort, but I know no one will sue me for copyright infringement.

Yep, it's my 49th birthday. November is birthday season in my life. Probably the only thing I've ever found to be true about astrology is that most of the people who have been close to me in my life have been born in May or November. I'm sure I'll leave some out, but: my ex-fiancee who apparently wants nothing to do with me these days was born Nov. 8; my lifetime friend Robert was docking his sailboat in New York yesterday, on a trip down the coast that began about the time of his birthday, Nov. 14, when Stephanie reached him yesterday morning, on her birthday, Nov. 17. My first cousin was born on Stephanie's birthday, and two of my aunts on my father's side were born this week in the 1920's, as well as my deceased uncle (who was also married to one of those aunts this week many years ago). Someone who used to be close to me was born Nov. 10, but I can't remember who.

Usually the reason I don't blog for a period of time is that I have nothing to say, which is the best reason I can think of. There's nothing particulary blogworthy about my birthday, either, but that's pretty much the point. There is one particular word of wisdom born of almost half a century of experience that I can impart. When I was 17 or so, I remember doing the calculation of how old I would be at the beginning of the third millenium and discovering I would be 42. I imagined that the 42-year-old person would be a totally different one than the 17-year-old. So in other words the person who was doing the imagining would never experience the twenty-first century. I was very right but very wrong.

So although it's true that in one sense the person I am now is not the person I was yesterday, in terms of the sense of self, of the perceiver, of the person who writes your daily autobiography in your head, you are exactly the same person now you will be tomorrow. That sounds obvious on a day-to-day sense, but is surprising when you consider the span of years of a lifetime. I am the same person looking out of slightly more myopic eyes at a different world today, as I was at 17. And at this point I am quite sure that if I make it to 75, I will be the same person I am now in an older body -- or at least I will perceive it that way. I don't act the same way I did when I was 17, I don't look the same, but I'm still me. I still haven't been co-opted by the world. I haven't merged into a role, although I may be better at acting like it. Maybe I'm the same person making different choices. But still me, really.

I am the same me I was when I discovered rock and roll in high school, when I discovered philosophy in college, when I went through the motions against my grain in law school, when I crashed and burned with my idiosyncrasies in the 90's, when I finally returned to my search for that same self in 2004 and survived to write this entry. But I am not the same me who could have been a successful lawyer who didn't burn out from his own frustration, or the person who could have more courageously rejected the path of attempted passing in society and pursued his own path when I was 20 and all the paths were open with a free ticket. Those selves are false, they are fantasy and illusion, they never happened and never will. To compare myself to them is a waste of my time and yours.

Because I am also not the person who never survived. That person, like the others never existed. Several of the possible persons you could have been never survived, but you're not them, or you wouldn't be reading this.

One of my favorite Buddhist stories (which of course I can't recount) ends in the ultimate truth about human life, one monk telling another, "From birth to death, it' just like this." Just like what? This. Everything you are feeling and thinking and seeking right now. It will never be perfect, it will never be fulfilled, it will never be over. This. This same self; even if in some epistemological realm that self is illusory, right now it is here and your point of reference and it is you and it it this.

So you are the cutting edge of the evolution of universal intelligence, and the cutting edge of the universe has to pee and has a bad hip and is worried about the dog and doesn't want to go to work on Monday, and it's living in luxury and hungry and scared, and it's tired and manic and almost half a century from its beginning and its learned enough to engulf the cosmos and doesn't know a damn thing.

Happy birthday, existence. Happy birthday, me.

No comments: