When I woke up this morning, my body acted as if it was supposed to repeat my experience from yesterday. Almost all of my body was sore; elbows, wrists, neck, knees, ankles, lower back, hands, shoulders, clavicles, etc., etc. I suppose “joints” might have been the better word, but “body” feels more representative of the experience. My body felt angry and oppressed, as if I had been tortured while under anesthesia and awakened to relive the experience of anguish: severe bodily torment. It’s too early to say with certainty whether the same sensations will remain with me today, but based solely on how I feel at the moment, I think it would be safe to bet that, physically, today’s pains will mimic yesterday’s. That, I must say, is a drag. A drag multiplied exponentially and increased several-fold. That confident statement notwithstanding, I hope to be compelled to issue a retraction later in the day. I should make note that these aches and pains are, with very little doubt, simply manifestations of the degradation of my increasingly old body.

In less than a month, I will be eligible to celebrate the transition from one age marker to the next. The obligatory recognition of a milestone in one’s evolution: a birthday. I wonder whether all societies observe birthdays with such…anticipation and celebration…and dread…as does ours? Do the more “primitive” tribes hidden in the African jungles or Amazonian forests treat birthdays with such reverence? I checked, though I did not attempt to explore beyond a single country (neither in Africa nor South America): Bhutan. Bhutanese tradition does not celebrate birthdays, but younger people in today’s Bhutanese society (especially in larger towns and cities) are moving toward acknowledging birthdays. According to one article I read, the Bhutanese acknowledge that everyone turn 1 year older on 1st January every year, thus celebrating their birthdays on New Year’s Day! The same article calls Bhutan the “happiest country in the world.” It goes on to say  the country’s people believe “leading a happy life is much more important than how many years you’ve been alive on this planet.”  Before I get too wrapped up in that idea, I should consider another assertion I found online: “Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays.” Yes, that is true, as well. I cannot affirm nor dispute that Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the world’s happiest people; I won’t even try. Simple association is not sufficient to impute causation. I think I remember that statement, presented as fact, from a college sociology course. But the study of sociology has changed, I think, since that time long ago. I suspect the subject of cultural differences in recognizing and celebrating birthdays was addressed in a sociology class along the way; but I do not remember that discussion. I do remember, albeit vaguely, talking in sociology classes about various age-related events, such as the “sweet sixteen” parties for girls in the U.S. and Canada (and maybe other places) and the “quinceañeras.” Other cultures/religions celebrate the attainment of specific ages. The bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah in Jewish culture celebrates the thirteenth and twelfth or thirteenth birthdays, respectively, of boys and girls. In Japan, the Coming of Age Day is commonly celebrated when a person reaches his or her twentieth birthday. If I kept looking, I probably could find dozens of other unique traditions. And only a few that do not give some sort of special recognition to birthdays in general or attainment of specific ages in particular. Not that it matters…not in the grand scheme of human evolution. So I’ll leave it at that.

We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh


An acquaintance of mine wrote a book a few years ago (not published and, as far as I know, not intended for publication) based on the premise (among several others) that “the elderly” maintain powerful libidos, almost equivalent to the horniness of hormone-driven teenagers, well into their nineties and beyond. Well, that’s the premise of the book from my perspective/reading; I cannot say whether the author shares that perspective with me. Regardless of the presumption, the book was well-written and entertaining (the author let me borrow a copy). And, inasmuch as it was written by an almost seventy-something woman, I suspect it was written from at least some degree of personal experience (I say that, knowing the writer and her propensity to talk freely about what would cause many other people to blush and turn away). I found it interesting that the connections in the book always were between oldsters; never did an elderly person consort with someone younger (if my memory serves…).

We must dare to think ‘unthinkable’ thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world.

~ J. William Fulbright ~

I hate the word “elderly.” It conveys physical feebleness and mental fragility. And it suggests an inability to take care of oneself. Admittedly, it is not uncommon for older people to need assistance in their day-to-day lives, but it is not universal. There should be another term to describe older people who are reasonably healthy, alert, and possessing of mental acuity. “Geezer” might be a term I would use, but I’ve heard so much negative feedback about that word that I would use it only in the presence of people who are progressive, fun-loving, and non-judgmental. I could come up with dozens of neologisms in response to the need for an appropriate word. Maybe. Or not.


The day is doing its best to get away from me. I will not let it. I will grab it by the ****s and force it to comply with my wishes. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll sit down and work out an acceptable compromise.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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