I Finally Felt It

I have a new roommate and a new appreciation for life.

See, I had a birthday last week. If you missed it, don’t feel bad. More people than I could remember remembered it for you. And I’ve always had a sort of soft spot for underplaying my birthday anyway. This one was a little different, though.

I didn’t have any big party or anything, and I’m glad. But I got every form of birthday greeting invented since the Qing Dynasty. One friend that was away started the day off by having another friend come to my dorm to deliver a gift and card. Text messages started rolling in from friends, colleagues and bosses. Various ecards got themselves delivered to my inbox. I had voice mails from home waiting when I got back from a nice lunch with Vic and May. The birthday wish that had been left on my door had an addendum from an English-speaking Japanese teacher. A few friends made contact via IM. Karyn, Kelly and Divena, with their powers combined, secured me both the turtle I’d been thinking about buying and homemade dessert (two separate items for those of you that were concerned about it) for our Friday night meeting, even though it was Chinese take-out night. Another couple of friends provided candy and Chinese study aids to be the last gifts of the day (though not the weekend). I even looked forward to checking the hateful new wall with its full load of birthday messages.

To revel in such an outpouring of love seems to counter my claim of preferring an understated birthday. This was a special birthday, though. It reminded me of the countless contributors to the life I was measuring. Each variant of those two words (or four characters) came from someone that had in some way touched my life. A person without whom I would be different. Weaker. Poorer.

My camera-shy new roommate
My camera-shy new roommate

I offer sincere thanks both to those who have made me this twenty-three year old and for them.

And to those of you who didn’t say anything, no hard feelings. You just missed your chance to be thanked.

But I’m still thankful for you.

Aside: For those of you who were kind enough to refrain from asking what must be the most pointless question of the ages, this time it actually does feel different. I feel as if I’m transitioning from ‘college age’ to ‘young adult’. I guess that means I see myself as needing to think a little more long-term. I’ve been trying to do so for a while now, but it was a good reminder. I have nothing to report on that front, but I’m more aware now. And rest assured if i felt this one, I won’t feel another for a good long while. And I will be annoyed if you ask.

Head and Shoulders, Poesy and Prose

At long last, I break my silence. About this election, I mean.

I begin with an oft-attributed and commonly restated quotation that goes something like this:

“Any man who is not a socialist when he is twenty has no heart; any man who is a socialist when he is forty has no head.”

This bit of wisdom wrenched from the unheard mouth of Francois Guizot was passed to me by my grandfather a couple of years ago. My grandfather is a very wise man.

And, really, few statements so accurately summarize this election.

Cherishing clarity over brevity, I shall now elaborate. Obama’s vision and charisma are truly inspirational. His world where the smallest person is valued and protected is worth striving for. And who better to lead us there than a disadvantaged guy who skyrocketed past the prejudice on a potent combination of pure ambition and an unnamed-higher-power(s)-given ability?

The only problem is that, despite the catchy slogan, I can’t believe in it. And who better to turn to for a dose of reality than the maverick turned skipping calf who has lived long enough to know that happy dreams are quickly broken in the prison camp of life? Grand plans of principle and caring oft go awry when executed by flawed people. McCain knows just how flawed people really are and will stand firm against insubstantial dreams of better days.

Obama knows it’s broken and wants to fix it without bothering to figure out what went wrong in the first place. He’s going to reshuffle some parts, gild the rough spots and hope for the best. McCain has watched it break and is going to make sure nothing comes near it to further damage it (side note: that means it doesn’t get fixed either).

I had a friend recently theorize the difference between liberals and conservatives results from the complexity with which they see the world. I hereby layer another filter on the discussion. Perhaps the difference is determined by the chronological direction they look for guidance in their policies.

Take, for example, the opening citation. What perception! The glorious complexities of government solved by a simple adage. The political feuds of countless generations reduced to a single guiding aphorism. Call me a liberal, and I’ll boldly proclaim this truth to guide my nation into a glorious future of understanding and advancement. Gone are the squabbles over political leanings. We shall relegate all such enlightened notions to history.

As a conservative, I’ll consider the history of this bit of wisdom. It has been taken completely out of context, had its noted notions of government exchanged to address contemporary concerns, had its ages and syntax molded to fit various eras, and been inaccurately heard from the mouths of multiple people. It is most often mis-attributed to Winston Churchill, who most probably never had such notions, and it is often remedially drawn from the works of George Bernard Shaw, who most definitely repudiated the idea. Power-grabbing, glory-sharing, name-dropping, content-wrangling. It’s how people work—and all to claim the power of credulity.

And where does this leave a hopeful young person attempting to make an informed decision? I want to see things get better as much as any Bolshevik, and I’m about as fed up with the current system of doing things. However, I differ from my century-old revolutionary counterparts in simile in that I have been taught a bit more about history. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t think Barak is a communist or would turn the US into the setting of future James Bond missions. I don’t really think he’ll do anything of his own at all, but that’s a different discussion.

I suppose that’s why I usually vote conservative. But I still have seven weeks to dream.