I walked around the lake next to my dead grandparents’ house. I saw Wild, the morning session, with the waifs and strays who watch movies in the morning. Then I asked the internet the meaning of turning thirty-four.
Google Books’ first page of results throws up Senghor Pope, Jesus, and Soren Kierkegaard, which are all very illuminating points of comparison.
Senghor Pope set a goal I really should have made a little earlier: “To work the seven truths of life plan twice a day until I reached my goal of one million dollars in net worth by my thirty-fourth birthday.” That’s in his book 7 Truths of Life, if you need to look it up.
Turning thirty-four was a significant moment for Soren Kierkegaard, his biographers point out, as he was shocked to still be alive. I feel like that some times, having somehow survived the music of chance to this point. Unlike Soren, I’ve had almost perfect health my entire life, which is why I needed to give the protagonist of the novel I’m working on a serious illness.
Christian writers remind us that Jesus did not live to see his thirty-fourth birthday, at least in his original body. I have been acutely aware enough of this already.
And then there’s Trove, a search of which reveals that Australian newspapers to 1954 did not tend to widely report on people’s thirty-fourth birthdays, unless they were the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) in 1928, whose thirty-fourth birthday was covered by a number of papers. It is a little hard to tell how serious Table Talk is when it asks whether the prince will be able to keep up his pace of life if he marries, after describing him beginning his day’s work by ten, playing a round of golf in the afternoon before dining and partying until midnight.
I have an unhealthy fear of lightning, which is not helped by reading about Dick Lambie, killed a few days before his thirty-fourth birthday in Gresford, NSW, in April 1926. Anyone without an unhealthy fear of lightning should note in that article that Mr Lambie was one of two men killed in separate incidents that day.
All these intimations of mortality and goals in life work against the usual birthday wishes to have fun, relax, etc. I propose a series of existential birthday cards, with appropriate greetings inside, encouraging the recipient to consider on their birthday the meaningfulness or otherwise of their lives and to call to mind their mortality. They could have Kierkegaard on the front, or Jesus. But maybe this is just because my birthday fell on Ash Wednesday last year, and the two events are now tangled up in my mind, even though Ash Wednesday is a movable feast.