Yes, indeed! Today is another milestone for me. It is not only the first day of the rest of my life, but it’s also the first day of my 68th year as a living, breathing, being, human on this planet. Or to put it another way, yesterday was my 67th birthday.
I’m not big on holiday hoopla. For the most part, most U.S. holidays are, decidedly, commercially motivated events. While they may commemorate some person(s) or some event, that seems to have been lost. Other then the holidays that were created completely out of commercial motivation like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, virtually all holidays are, at least in the U.S., commercially motivated. There are, of course, some exceptions such as certain Jewish, Muslim and perhaps some other religious observances. But, take Christmas as an example. It is supposedly about commemorating the birth of Jesus, but historians and Biblical scholars have unanimously disagreed on an actual date for the birth of Jesus. There isn’t even a consensus on the actual year. One account suggests that the Christmas holiday is based on an annual Roman pagan tradition that the early Christian church adopted to bring the masses of pagans into the church fold. Another example that always gets to me is Columbus Day. Columbus didn’t even set foot on this continent, let alone discover “America.” So, why does he get a holiday? To SELL MORE STUFF!!!
Every Party Has A Pooper!
Okay, so I’m a party pooper. Actually, there are a lot of downers about being a very pragmatic thinker. I always used to call my former mother-in-law one of the “two percenters” because she just didn’t accept or understand why certain things were simply accepted by the masses. Hmm, maybe some of her rubbed off on me. Of course, referring back to the brief commentary about my “advancing” age by my retired Navy admiral friend, Roger Gilbertson, “with age comes wisdom,” perhaps, my pragmatism is becoming more pronounced as I gain whatever “wisdom” I may have accumulated to date.
Of course, the holidays that I just scorned also serve the purpose of nuclear families planning some kind of family activity. They also serve as a time to gather with the extended family and friends to enjoy a time of fellowship and camaraderie. These are certainly positive virtues and I’m sure, more then any other reason, it’s the primary reason I’ve gathered with friends and family on these occasions. But, while I’m at it, one of the great things about being a pragmatist is that we can create a holiday anytime we want for any reason that suits our desires at that moment. It can be a spontaneous thing or a traditional thing or a one time only thing. I’ve done all three. This also may be one of the reasons that many Europeans don’t talk about vacations; they talk about going on holiday. I like that.
Too many people, especially when the birthday count passes the half-century mark, begin denying their age. If you’re old enough to recall Jack Benny, the comedian, he was forever 39. My aforementioned former mother-in-law celebrated her “2nd 40th birthday” in 2006 and this year plans have been announced for a family reunion to celebrate her “2nd 43rd birthday.” That’s all cute, but the facts are the facts and the reality is that no one can stop the hands of time. We know this; we just really don’t want to accept it.
Thus, while getting older has some drawbacks, there is no way to stop the years from passing – well, except for one and that’s the one we all hope will be a long time in the future no matter how old we are. I simply embrace it. Each new-year that I reach is like another notch in my achievements in life. I look at it as a fighter pilot looks at the marks painted on his airplane indicating the number of confirmed “kills” he’s had in his career or the number of notches carved in the “playboy’s” bedpost indicating his sexual conquests. Personally, each of the years I’ve achieved indicates levels of experience and wisdom gained. These are far more important to me.
Ed’s Pronouncement About Birthdays
So, here comes one of my pragmatic pronouncements about birthdays. Each individual’s birthday should be a personal holiday. To me, it’s the most meaningful day in any person’s life since it is the date and time indicating when your personal journey and adventure called life began. Each year becomes a milestone that indicates advances, setbacks and other experiences. Of course, we can create artificial milestones like when we obtained our drivers license, graduated from high school and college, received promotions in our various careers and so on. But, we can’t create the annual markers of the day we were born. That is a function of time over which we have not control. That foundation date is carved in stone or at least recorded on an official piece of paper at the county courthouse. So, I accept each milestone as a badge of honor. I’m pleased to have begun my 68th year. While not everything that’s happened during my prior 67 years has been positive or the way I had hoped it might have been, it’s still, uniquely, MY HISTORY and I am who I am because of that history. I’m pretty happy with who I am.
Another thing about the birthday as a personal holiday is that each individual can (and should) celebrate it any way and on any day he or she wishes. It’s YOUR personal holiday to do anything you choose. You can go horseback riding, bungee jump, skydive, climb a mountain, go fishing, scuba dive, drive a race car or just attend a race, go have a decadent dinner at some exclusive restaurant, read a book you’ve been meaning to get to, go shopping and buy a new outfit or car, etc. It’s your holiday there are no rules, guidelines or traditions since it’s, uniquely, yours. In my book, it’s the only real, true holiday each of us should make time to observe.
What Of The Future?
I’ve spent some time reflecting on my life and what it’s going to be like when I reach 80, 85 and maybe 90, if I’m fortunate enough to live that long. The average U.S. lifespan is currently about 75.5 years for men in the U.S., so if one is 10 to 15 years beyond that average we have to know that we are getting very close to the final destination. I wonder what goes through the minds of my friends who are in their 80’s or 90 or beyond as they get up each day. What will I be thinking each morning when (if) I reach those ages? For the most part, my friends have something to do each day. They have a reason to get up and stay active. That is one of several ways to extend life according to geriatric studies.
So, day 1 of year 68, here it is. What am I doing? I haven’t celebrated this milestone, yet. I haven’t decided on how I want to commemorate this year, but I will. I am reinventing myself. No, I’m not changing who I am. I like who I am and so do the people who are important to me (and anyone who doesn’t like me, it’s their problem, they are not important to me). I have accepted that the world has changed. In some cases, I’ve fallen behind a little. In some cases, I’m either not ready or I’m not willing to accept certain changes. I know that the world I spent the first few decades of my adult life is history and most of my professional career and my college/graduate school education are obsolete. It’s now part of my cumulative wisdom. The future for me is about finding ways to transfer this accumulated wisdom (and experience) into useful and productive ways to keep myself active and motivated by doing some good for those I care about, things I care about and the future of this world. I can truly say that I’m not the person I was. I’m a much better person. The prospects are exciting.