I was born in the month of December. Serendipitously I know of six other people (family and friends) who were born in the month of December. I am especially empathetic to these people though for reasons I could not reasonably or logically assert. There may be others within my proximate sphere who were also born in December but these six are people to whom I ritually send a birthday greeting or to whom I have lately taken to do so. The majority of them were born precipitously close to Christmas Day. That detail, as you might imagine, works against the celebration of their birth. I find the social conventions surrounding Christmas start early in the month of December; and accordingly collide as an interruption of one’s natal anniversary. It is a tangent especially toxic to gift giving (if anyone is counting).
One of those to whom I send birthday greetings is Marco, son of my erstwhile physician whom I have known for a long time. In addition to our friendship his father and I are “brothers of the Craft”; and, I served as his solicitor on occasion. Marco turned 31 today, December 16th, 2023. So he was born in 1992. I have known his father and late mother since before they were married (in fact I attended their wedding). I know his sister (and her husband and their two children). I recall seeing photographs of Marco and his sister as tiny children on the beach in Florida. I know the family’s housekeeper Nataliya and their longtime companion (aka, nanny) Miaretta. I know many of the family’s mutual friends; I’ve dined and swum on the family’s country estate frequently; and, I recall about three different dogs as family pets. I am thus adequately positioned to address the “assignment” levied upon me today by Marco in response to my birthday greeting; namely:
And now you must both complete an assignment for me…where were you at 31, and what is one thing about the world you enjoyed more then than today?
Before I begin, herewith the vibrant reply from my partner:
Bonne Fête Marco
The year was 1984 (George Orwell ring a bell?). I turned 31 on a Sunday, LA hosted the Summer Olympics, Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas died, “When Doves Cry” by Prince was #1, Life magazine cover was of a stay-at-home father raising his quints and there was a New Moon that night. John Turner was PM of Canada, Reagan was US President, Thatcher was England’s PM.
Disclaimer: None of the info provided above was from memory.
I was probably partying way too much in a bar in Hull (now Gatineau) but I am sure I was dancing and that’s what I miss today but still enjoy if only in my mind and soul.
Now it’s my turn to address this vital question from Marco. But first a summary of the issue.
Philosophy (love of wisdom in ancient Greek) is a systematic study of general and fundamental questions concerning topics like existence, reason, knowledge, value, mind and language. It is a rational and critical inquiry that reflects on its own methods and assumptions.
As luck would have it, my undergraduate degree from Glendon Hall, Toronto was a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy). In fact it merits repeating that when I telephoned my late father in Stockholm, Sweden to advise him what I had undertaken to study (instead of Economics as he had proposed), his curt reply was, “Well, it’s your bed; you make it, you sleep in it!” Now look who’s having the last laugh! Here I am at 75 years of age being asked by a young buck, “…where were you at 31, and what is one thing about the world you enjoyed more then than today?”
Like my partner, little of my response is taken from memory. I haven’t a clue where I was when I turned 31. Nor certainly what I was doing by way of celebration. To this day my own birthday has never been particularly important to me because I was forever overtaken by Christmas and all that that entails. And like so many overt people I have a singular distaste of attention when I’m the target. Statistically the year was 1979. I was probably in the throes of setting up my own law practice in Almonte; a career I pursued until retirement in 2014 (having been called to the Bar in 1975).
As for my answer to Marco’s critical portion of the assignment (that is, “…what is one thing about the world you enjoyed more then than today?”) when I first read this assignment earlier today I instantly formulated my response. My response was so quick, alert and unobstructed that I thought I must have misunderstood the question or I was being blasé. But my directness, clarity and lack of hesitancy had nothing whatever to do with indifference or off-handedness. In fact I found myself secretly applauding the conclusion. And the conclusion is this: There is nothing, absolutely nothing, about the world I enjoyed more then than today; and, more emphatically, every day of my life has forever improved in my opinion. I now measure my life in minutes; and every minute is filled with buoyancy! The blitheness of life is its paramount characteristic. And in the event that anyone seeks to contaminate the vitality or validity of this conclusion, I note for the record that 1) I’ve had open-heart surgery on a critical basis in 2007; and 2) in 2018 my heart stopped, I collapsed on the beach and lay there for I don’t know how long before an ambulance arrived and I couldn’t recall my own name or telephone number, then spent almost a month in hospital recovering before they realized they should have installed a PaceMaker as well as repairing my punctured lungs, broken ribs and abrasions to my head.
So the answer is simple: Nothing. Nothing in the past outweighs what is happening at this very moment which, if truth be told, is hopelessly saccharin. We’re not going anywhere; we haven’t been anywhere (assuming you don’t count the car wash); no, we’re just cozy as a bug in a rug in our little apartment overlooking the MIssissippi River, rejoicing in a late afternoon chilled coffee, the aroma of dinner wafting about the air; and of course Christmas music. The bromide must not however be dismissed as Sally Ann innocence or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie material. I honestly find every day to be an awakening – that is, metaphorically in addition to the obvious. I won’t pretend there are not occasional challenges; but I could not have written the sequel to my life any better if I were to have tried. And if you haven’t already guessed, a good deal of my approbation derives from the relationship with my partner. I mention this not as an aside but as suggestive of the critical mutuality of life. Perhaps therein lies the greater imperative in answer to Marco’s searching question.