Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Birthday Meditation

This planet of ours has made more than forty revolutions around the sun since the day I was born. As carbon-based life goes, I've been a pretty lucky duck. Free of life-threatening disease (as far as I know), with working limbs, satisfactory organs, some deficits here and there (especially in the lumbar region), and this strange serotonin deficiency---life is still relatively cushy for this collection of atoms manifested as myself.

Considering all of the things that can go wrong as one gallops through life, my list of grievances and injuries is relatively short compared to many on this troubled Earth. Some physical and psychological challenges have posed dragons with which I have had to wrestle. Some of my favorite people have died, one murdered by authorities wielding weapons they have no right to use on private citizens. One of my mentors died with more than 110 years under her belt, and her place in my personal firmament is forever held on high. Others have been taken by AIDS, cancer, and accidents. And others will certainly follow. My parents are in their seventies, so this child has good reason to suspect that he will live to see their deneoument, as well. And so it is.

I am blessed with a child---nay, now an adult---whose mere presence causes a stirring of joy in my heart equal to none. I have a life partner and love for whom I would do or give anything, and with whom life is a mysterious and wonderful journey filled with surprise and delight. I have siblings, parents, nieces and nephews and godchildren who populate my life with their loving presence. I have work which is fulfilling, colleagues who are respectful and supportive, and a lovely warm home, and dear friends far and wide.

I also recognize that I do not live amidst war and violence, have no need to lock my front door, walk freely at any time of day or night, am never short of food or drink, and have resources at my disposal which would be unimaginable to many less priviledged than I. It's also clear that as a white male in a society (however wrongly) dominated by other white men, there are powers and freedoms which I daily take for granted, barely registering from moment to moment that those freedoms have been denied to so many for centuries, and still are to this day, even in our own country.

Speaking of my country, I do not entertain giddy feelings of patriotism which dictate that I proclaim that I live on the greatest country on the face of the earth, and I am fully aware that my government does many heinous and reprehensible things "in my name" with my hard-earned taxes. While I will readily criticize this government, this culture, this society, and especially the current administration whose names will hopefully go down in history as the most ill-begotten "sons of freedom" to ever walk this earth, I also readily acknowledge that, for all its foibles and weaknesses and its culture of excess, I was still lucky to be born here and daily exercise the priviledges pursuant to that origin, deserved or not. While my freedom seems assured, "Land of the Free" is---at least to me---a vast overstatement, taking into consideration the popular belief that "no one is free when others are oppressed". And oppressed they are.

So, on this day marking the anniversary of my arrival on this earth, I give thanks for all I have, for those in my orbit, near and far, and for the freedoms and priviledges which make my life what it is. And for those who have less than I, who struggle far more than I, who need far more than I, they are in my thoughts and prayers, and (to paraphrase Robert Fripp) may my living repay the debt of my existence.
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