The Cultural Masturbation of Time

hourglass

Pumping fireworks to mark new years, popping champagnes to celebrate birthdays, and turning the clock to mark changes in seasons. These are acts of self-pleasure to mark days that are otherwise ordinary for others, elsewhere. The elevation of certain days above others like the Thank God it’s Friday fetish that turns responsible people into canneries of drunken sailors is arguably nothing but pure self-pleasure. If the world stopped celebrating Christmas, New Year, birthdays, Valentine’s day and their many tributaries, life will still go on perfectly.

There is therefore merit in the argument that everyday is a new day, and an opportunity for change, for resolutions, and fresh starts; you do not need to change calendars to feel so. You do not need an elevated day with a contentious history to celebrate your mother, love, or your Messiah. While you wait for the glamour of a new year, a new government, a new house, a new car, a new house, and a new job to be thankful and hopeful, every other moment that you consider ordinary is an empty space for you to feel all these things. Simply put, make hay while the sun shine; do not wait for an eclipse!

The above argument is a philosopher’s stone and which in my rugged opinion should shatter most glasses of disagreement. But we must not be too quick to dismiss the utility of the deliberate ritualization of some days as more superior to others. Because the marking of some days as eventful and sacred, even if its seems logically pointless, is an important reminder of our own mortality, like the measure of time itself. Let me explain.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of humans is our ability to measure time. Our chronometric ability to connect seconds to millenniums is the only way we have mastered time, even if it masters us all with death. But this is exactly why me mark time, that we may know how to measure the length of our days, when to expect death, and when to celebrate our ability to evade death.

When we celebrate certain days as eventful, we do so to inherently remind ourselves that we are on a temporal lease. While every second counts, only certain moments, like new jobs, new years, birthdays are worthy reminders of our mortality. We do not celebrate every second, hour and day because we do not want to remind ourselves every so often that we are on death’s waiting list. Call it terror management, if you please.

Thus when we do remind ourselves, on occasion, we do so with pump and revelry, not just to give the middle finger to death, but also to cover the underlying terror with a show of pleasure. We celebrate birthdays as a pleasurable increase in lifetime, not as a terrifying incremental proximity to our death; we celebrate Mothers’ Day as salutations to our mothers, not as a reminder that we might be reading the same words in their funeral tribute one day; we celebrate new years as moments of hope and a fresh start, not as a collective migration of humanity through time towards a probable apocalypse.

So although we ought to celebrate every day as opportune, and not just elevate some days as more special than others, we still need such self-pleasure of occasional pump and ceremony to tolerate our otherwise inevitable slow march to our end. On this day of the commemoration of my birth, I raise a glass to all the special relationships that have filled the void of my inevitable march to the grave. While I am here, may my tenancy of time be a source of joy to other co-tenants of time: you. Happy birthday to me, and to you as well; it’s a new day for you too, dammit!

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