Another Ride Around The Sun
Weh-he-hell now, it's my birthday! Yes, it's the anniversary of my injection into this bewildering morass of time-space, of my inculcation into a miraculous and indecipherable amalgamation of spirit and flesh, ghost and meat-machine. And despite what Dave Berry may say, Ima make a big deal about it, along with immediate family and a few zillion Facebook acquaintances. Many happy returns and all that.
This is Year 61 for me. Okay, it's Year 62 coming on, I'm already done with 61. In any case, it's kinda boring. Last year was 60, a major odometer turnover, and I had major odometer turnover kinds of reflections. This year, not so much. Another year older, another year uglier in the mirror (my wife would disagree, but she's prejudiced. As am I). Just another young man gone bald, another geezer in training. Ready to start indulging in that sovereign sport for the nasciently elderly, the contemplation of what I've managed, through pluck or luck or sheer asymmetric attrition, to outwit, outplay and outlast here on Island Earth. Survivor, Whole Life Edition.
Just for starters, I outlived the 50's, the 60's, the 70's, the 80's, the 90's and the Ooze.
Especially the Ooze. Now that was a decade. Jeeze! You kids today! Think you got it hard!
On the other hand, I'm still not entirely sure I outlived the 60's. And the Teens, o'course, are still in play.
I outlived disco. Thank gawd. And rock and roll. No, sorry, I did. No, really. Arcade Fire my ass. And punk. And glitter. And maybe even hiphop.
But not jazz. Jazz was over before I was born.
I outlived Mozart, not to mention Brahms, Beethoven and Haydn. So there, too. And Zappa. And Elvis, Jimi, Jim, Kurt, Janis, Keith, Freddy, George, Sid, John, Jerry and Joey. What the heck, and Miles, Bird, Billie, Anita, Ella, Louis (both of em), Johnny, Waylon, Patsy and Hank. And John Lennon, though I'm not especially proud of it.
I outlived hula hoops, mini skirts, skateboards, bell bottoms, Smurfs, smiley faces, zoot suits, Volkswagen beetles, tube amps, synthesizers, drum machines, wah wah pedals, Speed Racer, Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, Leave It To Beaver, Star Wars, the Beatles, cassettes, big bands, Jesus freaks, anti-Semitism, 8 bit video games, the Democrats, the Republicans and the space program.
The first time. They just keep coming back.
I outlived Bob Hope, but it was touch and go for a while there.
I outlived every cell in my body at least eight times.
Still, there's plenty of stuff I haven't outlived. Yet. Newt Gingrich, say.
Then there's all the things I'm unlikely to outlive. Things like continental drift, the sun, microwave background radiation, the heat death of the universe.
Amoebas. You gotta feel a little small reflecting that you can't even outlive a single cell organism.
The blues. Ain't nobody gonna outlive the blues. Nosir. The blues is eternal.
Religion, much as I fret to admit it. There's just something in us that needs to be scolded, and it gets lonely when there's nothing that scolds. Oh, yeah, and God too. As long as there's a human alive, there'll be a God.
The human race itself, of course. Tautology.
Technology. We need it too much. I need it too much. And what is Man without Tools?
Ah, but those tools, now. What happens to a person's life when they're projecting it into cyberspace, mixing their essence with itty bitty bits and bytes of outrageous fortune? Enough of what I'm going to outlive, what of me is going to outlive me?
For all of us, there's a gap between what we intend to do with our lives and what happens while we're busy trying. My own take on the matter is that no-one passes through this world without making at least a few ripples. A smile, a kind word at the right time or even the wrong time, a handout, a hand up, a handstand, a turn of phrase or a good intention can have unforeseen influence, could turn a thief into a doctor. Or vice versa. None of us can ever really know what outlasts us. All we can know is that something must.
And with the advent of hyperlinked communication, that effect can only be amplified. Think of it. Your old jerky comments, profiles accrued on social networks, shopping habits concealed in some multi-core server farm, statistics of your likes, dislikes, fears and hopes, the very street where you live, the roof over your head, all percolating, echoing endlessly across the Silicon Valley of digital human understanding, endlessly rehashed, endlessly repurposed, analyzed, plucked over, refined, condensed.
You think of it. I'm more concerned with my own personal sensorium. What about me? I don't expect to see that glorious day when personalities are encoded, CNS, store bought teeth and tailbone complete, into the Web, the clean and shining Web, if it ever comes at all. Not for me the Church of the Singularity.
The only solace I ever found for the midnight you'regoingtoDIIIIIIIE horrors of my childhood was one mistaken by my mother, the Unitarian Sunday school teacher, for a faith in reincarnation. No Ma, it's simpler than that. See, here I am an inculcation into a miraculous and indecipherable amalgamation of spirit and blah blah blah. Like I said. So what's that about? And if it happened once, doesn't it seem likely that it'll happen again? The gulf between once and again is infinitesimal compared to the one between never and once.
And the only problem with that is that, barring some entropic stricture prohibiting simultaneous incarnation, I've at one time or another been everybody who's ever lived, or ever will. There is only one soul, one self-awareness, independent of identity, inhabiting us all. It isn't solipsism — it's really all just me.
Happy birthday, everybody.