Sunday, February 09, 2003

To thine own self be true, if it workest for thou

 [another Doug-ression kinda thing composed 9 February 2003]

I have something of a confession to make: I don't wish for anything when blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Oh sure, I pause momentarily whilst the flames burn to allow something to come to mind, but nothing does. It's not that I have no wishes, it's just that I know better than to actually wish for them; Fate and I don't have that kind of relationship, where She would respond to a direct conscious plea. Besides, we know that my raw desires tend to be impractical, imprudent, and/or impudent, and are best served to me in a refined state.

Whether "Fate" refers to the Western world's sense of God or the Eastern world's sense of destiny or merely my unconscious mind exerting its influence over the universe is something I cannot say definitively (and presumably I never will). Does it matter? Must the exact nature of reality be clarified and quantified and narrowed to one particular paradigm? I figure as long as the arrangement more or less works out for my ultimate benefit it matters little whether the "true" nature of the situation is any, all, or none of the above; the labor pains we can ignore if the baby turns out okay.

Deconstructing the act, I must admit I don't believe there is anything more special about a wish made at that moment when the candles sit lit atop a cake than a wish made at another time. It's somewhat daunting to think that I get only one good wish each year on or around the anniversary of my birth. Such stipulations put a great deal of pressure on the decision of precisely what to wish for, and certainly cause it to warrant more than a moment's consideration. Even ignoring my trepidation regarding Fate's whims, a careful analysis of the magnitude of the act would surely result in me being stymied in trying to narrow the field to just one wish. If I fail to blow out all the candles in a single breath, the whole deal's off--the pressure only builds.

And of course, while this would be going on, everyone gathered around who just sang "Happy Birthday" to me would be waiting impatiently, the candles would be melting wax all over the frosting, and the general festive mood would be dampened. (I grasp that the party guests wish me well only to the extent that I keep my neuroses in check and don't allow them to delay the slicing and distribution of the cake, and I respect that.) This obviously serves to reinforce the notion of feigning the wish, keeping up appearances, giving the people what they want, and just blowing out the candles. This also increases the likelihood that there will be a party the next year.

Besides (if I may be allowed a bit of sentimentality), the fact that anybody cares enough to throw me a party is more wish fulfillment than I need. It's not that I have hideous self-esteem and cannot believe people like me--of course, they do; I'm pretty hot stuff--but I never lose sight of how wonderful that is. And hey, wishes or no wishes, there's cake.

I know wishes come true every day. Usually I don't realize it until much later, and most of the time I didn't even actively wish for them; I've learned to live with that. It's not blind faith. It's acknowledging that there's a time to struggle against the tide and a time to float downstream. It's based on years of analyzing what has and hasn't worked to get me what is best for me, and to that extent it is a logical and pragmatic method of dealing with the chaotic shared experience we call life. Maybe this is a stupid, lazy outlook and completely impossible to justify. Of course, is it any more idiotic than expecting the mere act of extinguishing flames with one's breath to change the course of events in the universe?

Happy birthday to you. Whenever it is.


"Who said that every wish
would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of it,
and someone believed it;
look what it's done so far."
- from "The Rainbow Connection", written by Paul Williams, sung by a frog


Remember: In the context of Hamlet, "To thine own self be true" did not mean one should always adhere to one's principles; rather, Polonius meant one should always look out for numero uno, first and foremost. (Thanks to Michael Macrone's Brush Up Your Shakespeare! for clarifying that for me.)


My friend Mandy's dutiful research has revealed this week, February 10 - 16, 2003, is apparently Random Acts of Kindness Week, as decreed by whomever it is that determines these things. Make up your own joke about the impending war regarding this.


Indicia of sorts, for the uninitiated: The Doug-ression (besides being a hideous play on words) is a rambling diatribe/confession/pseudo-personal essay that Doug inexplicably feels inspired to compose occasionally, and then to inflict upon those with e-mail. (To protect the recipients' e-mail addresses, he sends them out BCC.) The ideas are 100% Doug's (to the extent that any idea can be "original" in this post-post-modern age), for better or for worse. Apologies if you were expecting another forwarded joke about how awful Mondays are.

If you'd rather not receive these things from him in the future, just wait for your next birthday and wish for Doug to lose your e-mail address when everybody finishes singing. Make sure you blow you really hard.

Forwarding this to 10 of your friends won't bring you good luck. Unless you believe it will.

No comments:

Post a Comment

So, what do you think?