Thursday, May 19, 2005

I'm 33 today. In four months, I'll be 1/3 of a century old. In three years, statistically speaking, half of my life will be over. I think I'm lucky to have grown up in a time where I can carry so many of my adolescent passions with me into adulthood. None of that "when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." for me. Well, ok, Paul was talking about ways of understanding, but still. Perhaps the mediated life is less of a centered life than the lives of those who came before. Perhaps I shouldn't care so much about pop culture, which, like some sci-fi drug, not only keeps me young but focuses my brain on unimportant details so as to keep me distracted from more important things, using me up. Perhaps we are all Dorian Grays now.

Still, I feel lucky. A man my age a century ago would be well over halfway through his life, burnt out by constant work and struggle, striving to feed his many children and spouse, rising before dawn and coming to bed late, tired, sore, married to a woman he hardly knew before he married her, friendly with a few other men (and not women) in the vicinity with whom he speaks a couple of times a month, only hearing music in church or if he could afford an instrument around the house and had found the time to learn to play it when he was young, perhaps reading a few books when he could get hold of them but hardly ever having the time or opportunity for entertainment, and farming if he still owned land but most likely losing that farm and having to move to an urban center to find work (n.b. if it's my great-great-granddad we're talking about, he didn't lose the farm, nor did my great-grandfather, grandfather, or father). Relatively speaking, I have it made.

What would he think of me, this man of 1905? Would he want what I have? Would he think I'm wasting it? Would he recoil from the frivolty with which I surround myself? Or would he long for luxury of surrounding yourself with frivolous entertainments?

When I think of him, I think of how fortunate I am to have the great things that I have. I may work in an ethically ambiguous field and I may waste my intellect -- or what little of it I still can access, that is -- on issues that ultimately don't matter to anyone but me, but I have a wife who is smart and beautiful, an infant son who is happy and well-fed, a house, car, pets, guitars, electronic luxuries that the 1905 man could not even imagine, a job where I rarely break a sweat and can usually leave after a mere 8 hours, shelves of CDs, books, and movies to ease and challenge my mind, a college education, an extended family and friends that we can -- wonder of wonders -- contact instantly, though they live half the country away, and the ability to up and travel just about anywhere in the world in just a few hours. Many of these things are material goods or opportunities, but they augment my life.

I know that progress towards a more fair society proceeded quickly in the 20th century until the conservative backlash against economic progress in the 1970s and 80s reversed the expansion of the middle class. The man my age in 1985 would be able to tick off a similar list, although the man my age in 1965 would still be working towards it. Nevertheless, things are better than they used to be, and I hope that the political alignment of the country leans again towards progress in the next election so that we may keep the gains hard-won from the wealthy by our grandparents and great-grandparents.

Anyway, I've always taken measure of myself on my birthday and found myself lacking. This year, I will be strive to be more optimistic: I will view as opportunities the places where I fail my conception of how I should be. Most importantly, I will try to show my wife and son that I deserve them every day. This is my life's work.

6 comments:

Tiffany 11:45 AM, May 19, 2005  

Happy Birthday Hayden!! A great reflection of life. Enjoy today and each day after. You have set some good goals, you can achieve them. Yeah optimism!!

Mrs. Obscurity 1:21 PM, May 19, 2005  

Awh, I've got tears in my eyes. You deserve everything you have and more. I am amazed that I have built a life with such a generous hearted and giving person, who is smart and cute to boot! Love you!

Hayden Childs 2:01 PM, May 19, 2005  

Thank you both! And I love you, Mrs. O.

Julian, Zachary, Janice & Martin 2:33 PM, May 19, 2005  

Hayden!!!

Happy, happy birthday to you from all four of us! We hope you can continue strolling down the path of life with such a positive attitude and inspiring curiosity!
(I had thought of writing you an e-mail, but then realized how hopelessly behind I am in approaching post-modern communication...)

Hayden Childs 3:00 PM, May 19, 2005  

Thanks! Don't worry, Julian. I'm sure you'll catch up on postmodern communication before your dad does.

julie beth 10:49 AM, May 21, 2005  

happy birthday, hayden! you old, old man, you. :)

thought-provoking post. you think YOU"VE got it better than your ancestors, what about us women? we've come a long way, baby. i am so lucky to have been born when i was (what, one month after you were?). now i'll have to blog a thoughtful post on how far we've come, what i'm enjoying, what i'm utilizing, or wasting...

nah, i'll leave the thinky blogging to you. happy birthday!

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