A newcomer to Facebook, I noticed that people’s birthdays are publicized, and we’re told to say something “nice” to them, like “Happy Birthday!” Of course, why not? It’s a social medium. What could be more sociable than wishing somebody a “happy birthday?”
But there’s a problem. Some people think the expression happy birthday is oxymoronic. They tend to go along with the folk wisdom of the ancient Greek sages who said: “Best of all things is never to have been born.”
For people who think and feel that way, being born marks the beginning of a disaster. It implies another round of bondage to matter, stupidity, and injustice.
To such people all we could say about their birthdays: “Congrats! You’re one year closer to death.”
Going on about birthdays must seem weird to serious Buddhists and to others of Hindu and grim Greek persuasion—and to the serious pessimists among us. Being born for these contrarians represents a failure, and nothing to celebrate. It means you probably fouled up in your previous existence, and so were sent back into another round of reincarnation. Que noia!
So just singling out the day of your birth as some kind of landmark to admire is sort of inane. I suppose I’m being unfair. If you had a good year on the stock market and are looking forward to massive tax reductions in the coming year, you might very well feel like making your birthday a bash. And you would do it big time to demonstrate your hard-earned happiness. But if you’re among the great mass of the 99 percent, you’ll never be invited to this party of happy humanity.
My wish is not to dump on birthdays, which, after all, are fun for children.
But for adults who don’t know what to do with their birthdays, and would like to view them in a pleasanter light than the grouchy Greeks and Asians, there is another way to celebrate.
The ancient Romans, Greeks, and early Christians all believed that at birth we gain a lifelong ally—a kind of inner cheerleader. As our bodies have immune systems, so do our souls have their immune systems. The Greeks called it the daimon. (In Plato’s Phaedrus, the daimon inspires the poet, the prophet, and the healer.) The Romans said a Genius is assigned to each of us when we’re born, and is there for us when the creative spark is really needed.
So when was the last time you invoked your guardian angel? And what about trying to get friendly with your Genius? And why, by the way, so timid about the mysterious daimonic side of yourself?
I know we’ve been brainwashed by rationalistic scientism not to believe in any of that. But really, they’re just names for potential powers asleep in our subliminal minds. We’ve been conned into believing we’re one-dimensional machines with no depth. We’re not. We’re infinitely more.
So I recommend a new birthday paradigm. Let birthdays be for reconnecting with our better angels—resurrecting the dead zone inside us.
In the ancient Roman model, you celebrate your birthday by trying in whatever way you know to renew contact, stoke up the flame, or call upon, your inborn genius—or if you prefer, your slumbering daimon, your idle guardian angel.
Forget about birthday cards. Let’s start a revolution of soul.
Happy birthday, everybody.