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a brief ride on my train of thought

musings of the homebound mind by jim "shu" carroll

of presents and presence

it occurs to me that birthdays are like air. or space, or food: they don't seem all that important unless you don't have enough. when we humans are little, our families celebrate each birthday as if it is some marvelous accomplishment; the ultimate version of everybody gets a trophy. "way to go, kid! you woke up one more time!" and sure, i know the celebration is of the individual and their presence and their birth and the story they create as part of the family or the workplace or the world in general. i get it. in addition to the mundane nature and sense of obligation that attends birthdays, they also serve to remind me that we live in a rampant, unchecked consumerist society. we are conditioned from an early age that birthday = presents. and cake. and ice cream. and balloons. all stuff that i feel obligated to purchase in your honor on your birthday and fully expect you to purchase to celebrate the wonder of me on my birthday. in this country alone we have 330 million little holidays every single year. so your "unique personal holiday" today is shared by only 904,000 other little miracles just within the confines of these here united states. as they say, "you're unique, just like everyone else". i remember the day that each of my children came into this world. i remember my sense of wonder at the miracle of biology. even in my apprehension and fear i also felt gratitude to be living in a society where this totally natural event occurs in the presence of so much readiness for complication, or difficulty; where the likelihood of a positive outcome is almost guaranteed. i distinctly remember feeling the weighty burden of having fomented the invitation of another soul to this ball of confusion - still so terribly out of balance and rife with pitfalls and disappointments every bit as real as its readily-apparent beauty. i have attained a vantage point at which birthdays pass like the telephone poles seen through the windshield of johnny bond's hot rod lincoln. it was late in the process that i even noticed the logarithmic nature of the acceleration. my grandchildren still look into an incalculable future of days and weeks and seasons and cannot see their next birthday for the curvature of the earth. mine arrives, inevitably surprising, like the appearance of christmas candy before halloween, and every bit as welcome. it's not that i fear death. i suspect by the time it arrives i will find it a welcome change from the cyclic absurdities of holidays, presidents, and plagues. and birthdays. (note to the reader: i'm not entirely sure if this is a work of fiction, or if i stubbed my toe on something in my brain. it is what it is, eh?)


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