This is just a quick and somewhat random post prompted by a strange collection of thoughts basted in a few too many glasses of red. Today I have attended my three-year-old grand-daughter’s birthday party, and arranged to travel down to Dover to visit my dying Father-in-Law. And today is also the birthday of Young Chris – one of the (if not THE) most faithful readers-of-our-blog. So… Happy Birthday Chris – this one’s for you.
Most of the time, Life just plods along. Trivial stuff occurs and sometimes amounts to illusory mountains, and people busy themselves with the busy business of Getting By. Insignificant Things fill the horizon with the enormity of their importance, and we forget what really matters. I say that as if I know what does really matter. But, to be honest, I’m not sure I do. Of course, as an inadvertent existentialist (I never planned to be one – honestly), who has drunk too much wine than is sensible, I’m inclined to say that Nothing Really Matters. But that doesn’t stop me wishing for – searching for – something that does.
After watching my grand-daughter playing so happily with her cousin (who is very shortly to move to Australia), whilst observing the interactions of the various ‘young couples’ with other small children romping around at her party, and then having a long-distance phone conversation with Simon about his dying father, I am tempted to say that relationships matter.
And as I sit here watching a pair of wood pigeons courting in my garden, I think that relationships matter for all living things. But then I realize I am attributing human characteristics to an entirely different species, and I blame the David Attenoroughs of this world for anthropomorpizing everything, so that when one of our cats kills a mouse, I worry about the mouse family back at the nest wondering why their mum/dad/brother/sister hasn’t come home. But pigeons do (allegedly) mate for life, and surely that must have some significance. (Although I sincerely wish I hadn’t mentioned that to my son, when he was already feeling bad about having hit one (of a pair) with his car, when he couldn’t stop because of the car behind him.)
And as I reflect upon Life and its inevitable passing, I wonder about the notion of birthdays, and of the sense in celebrating them. I look at my grand-daughter, feeling a bit sick from too much cake, and a bit overwhelmed by too many presents, and a bit wondering why this stuff is all happening today, and ‘what is a birthday anyway?’ and I feel equally sick and overwhelmed by the Cake of Arbitrariness that sprinkles its messy crumbs into each and every aspect of our socially-aware lives. I wonder that each year we happily celebrate being one year closer to old age and our inevitable demise. I wonder that we bother counting such arbitrary time units at all. And then I shake my head at the realisation that so many of my grand-daughter’s three year birthday presents are designed to help her learn how to count (in an oh-such-fun way), so that she can count for herself the passing years.
And I wonder how it is possible to come to a conclusion about what really matters, when you need to decide on priorities. When you are balancing, in your clumsy metaphorical hands, so many Things That Matter, but which are in opposition to each other, so that Difficult Decisions Must Be Made. I search pointlessly for something approaching a Guiding Principle, and realize that even guiding principles are man-made and arbitrary.
And then I return to watching the birds bopping about in my garden, and I become aware that, even though Nothing Really Matters, Life, when it occurs, in all its different, arbitrary forms, and for however long or short it lasts, is simply amazing. And that is probably enough.
Happy (Un)Birthday to You All.