When a friend of mine first moved to Canada from Germany, I often took him around to parties or events so that he could meet more locals. I remember one time I told him we were going to a friend’s 30th birthday party. He asked me, “Is it common for people to have birthday parties when they are grown up?” I told him some people might but most people would usually just go out to dinner and maybe for drinks with co-workers and friends, but that this was a 30th so it was an actual party. And then my friend tore a veil of thought wide open.
“It seems that the tens are very important in North America,” he said. It took me a second for it to compute.
“Uh, yeah. It isn’t like that in Germany or the rest of Europe?”
“No. Why is it?”
“I’m not sure, but I suspect it’s just because we use tens based math.”
Strange indeed. If anything, I’ve observed lives to go in 7-8 year cycles and so have a lot of ancient cultures. And the drinking and (maybe not coincidentally) voting age in my province is 18, so it’s not like it lines up with being an adult. We just think if the year ends in zero that it’s a big deal and so it is a big deal. We’re kind of like monkeys.
Do you know the story about the monkeys? I’ve referred to it before. In an experiment, some bananas are placed at the top of a tall step ladder. But if a monkey climbs the ladder to get the bananas then all of the monkeys get blasted with freezing water. Before long if any monkey even tries to climb that ladder, the rest of the monkeys will attack it.
One by one they cycle out the monkeys, replacing them with monkeys that never get sprayed with cold water in their lives. And yet after 100% of the original monkeys are shifted out, the remaining monkeys—the ones who’ve never been sprayed with freezing water—are all still attacking any monkey that tries to climb the ladder. Likewise you learned to celebrate your uncle’s 50th, but not his 48th.
This is my 500th blog posting. What that means is absolutely nothing other than it acted as fodder for discussing the irrelevance of numbers. They’re cool at describing some aspects of some things, but numbers aren’t things unto themselves. You can’t go out and dig me up a number seven. Numbers are ideas. And they have as much power as we give them. (We currently give a lot of power to money and stock market quotes. )
So go ahead and celebrate all of the birthdays that end in zero, but do it remembering that those years don’t mean any more than any others and that it’s not the years in your life, it’s the moments in your years. Live those moments as awake as you can be. Witness your own being as an aspect of the unfolding of the universe. It’s a miraculous place filled with love and compassion and wonder and sensation. Don’t waste it worrying or wishing. Dive in and live. You don’t even have to count to ten before you start. 😉
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.