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On Turning Seventy

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Turning seventy is treated as some kind of accomplishment, even a notable achievement. Perhaps it is, of sorts—but only in a negative sense. It means that, for a very long time, mismanagement of my affairs and fairly continuous application of bad judgment have failed to put a stop to whatever it is I do on this planet.

I’m generally uncomfortable when receiving compliments, as they carry the burden of reciprocation. This is awkward, since—in general—neither I nor the other person are deserving of any particular praise. I’m especially uneasy when I know for a fact that the encomia are unearned. Acknowledgment of intelligence is as unsettling (aside from being utterly mistaken) as being noted for height or eye color. Not one of these qualities is the result of any effort on anyone’s part.

Being feted for accumulating seven decades of existence is much the same. So, now that the big day is upon me, I feel only the urge to hide.

What, after all, have I accomplished? A largish number of days have passed, without the slightest bit of help from me. Roughly twice as many as Mozart or Jesus accrued, who—by any reasonable measure—accomplished somewhat more than have I.

An overabundance of days should not, in itself, be cause for celebration. All those days represent is a number of complete circuits around a rather ordinary star, a star notable only for its nearness to a relatively insignificant planet. The total number of those solar circumabulations—purely by an accident of evolution—seem noteworthy to us because we imagine they have some numerical significance. However, that significance is utterly arbitrary. No number, by itself, means anything—and the fact that one is an even multiple of ten (a number that gives the impression of being meaningful only because we have ten fingers, making it easier for counting than some other number) is an anthropocentric illusion.

If turning seventy signifies anything at all, it is that it’s occasionally possible for one to acquire a degree of perspective (perspective that would have been more beneficial—and saved everyone from a lot of embarrassment—if developed much earlier).

2 Comments:

Blogger Cindy said...

Happy birthday, Gary! The big 7-0, wow. I've a bit of a ways to go until I catch up to that, but I know you will celebrate in the finest manner possible.

May 1, 2016 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger mfw1936 said...

Relax and enjoy...

May 1, 2016 at 9:35 AM  

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