By Richard Bleil
Yes, my birthday coincides with Earth Day. This year it also happens to fall on Easter Monday.
I’ve had my birthday fall on Easter Sunday twice in my teen years, but alas, that won’t happen again until I am in my late 90’s. Chances are I will never see it happen again while I’m alive. Easter, the reader may or may not realize, is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring. I have no idea why.
Earth Day, on the other hand, is on April 22 each year. I’m rather proud that Earth Day corresponds with my birthday. It’s also a rather sad day, to consider what is happening to our beloved planet.
The Native Americans have a very personal relationship with the Earth. The view the Earth as the mother of all life. We, you and I and everybody, have sprung forth from the mother earth, in their eyes, making us all brothers and sisters. This is a philosophy to which I am deeply drawn. It’s a reminder that we should take care of our mother Earth, and to treat one another with the same dignity and respect that we would treat our own family. For the Native Americans, this is more than just a saying, though. They are highly community oriented, and have many grandmothers because, in their eyes, a grandmother is not just bloodline, but rather is every elder that helped to raise them. Yes, every one. They respect their elders, their ancestors, the earth, each other, and show the kind of love and support that is very much missing in our society today.
Often I think about the contrasts between the philosophies of the Native people and those of the European descendants. It’s an interesting difference, almost like a Yin and Yang, a dark and light principle. Energy versus entropy. As I understand it, the Native people are grounded in their elders. Before Europeans settled, they were strong in tradition. Of course, I am speaking of North American Indians. In South America, the Incas, Aztecs, and undoubtedly dozens of other peoples of whom I am unaware (I really need to travel) built vast permanent cities and had a technology of their own. But in North America, they had all of the resources, a richness of potential that was present in Europe, and yet, I suspect their connection to Earth and ancestors kept their progress slow. In Europe, technology was booming, allowing them to traverse oceans (but, let’s be real, the Vikings did it first), create mechanical clocks, gunpowder, and great cities.
Which is better?
I’m not sure that’s the appropriate question. As a society, America LOVES technology. As I write this, I have my laptop open to type, my tablet streaming a movie and my smart phone next to me for social media. Technology will allow my words to reach around the world almost instantly, but, at the same time, has probably destroyed the Earth beyond repair, especially since nobody is really willing to do what has to be done to save it such as giving up our automobiles and air conditioners. Had we followed the ways of the Native people, we probably would not have dredged up fossil fuels, and the planet might not be dying. Maybe we need to learn a balance, to conserve where we can, to start living more simply, to do with less, while continuing to seek advances to make our lives better.
Or, maybe I’m insane.
Birthdays, on the other hand, tend to be very personal, and often indulgent events. They are often celebrated with parties, birthday cake, and celebrations in the company of friends and family. For me, however, birthdays tend to be dreary and reflective affairs.
I know. You’re shocked.
See, I tend to use my birthday to reflect on my past year, what has worked, what failed, where I came from and where I wish to go. This is something I’ve discussed often in my blogs, so I don’t know how much I want to repeat today. I lost my girlfriend, the first woman I have dated since my divorce in 2011, but I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve been unemployed for quite a long time, but tonight I have been working on a presentation for a meeting coming up in a week for a consulting contract, and a few weeks after that I have a second interview for a very nice job which, if I get it, would mean a return to academia.
I don’t know where I want to go from here. It has been a struggle to get back on my feet, especially with my unemployment which has extracted a dreadful cost in my own feeling of self-worth. Thanks to my friends, who have helped me in more ways than I can write, I”m struggling and slowly returning to my feet. I know I need to be more careful of getting involved with another romantic partner, making sure that, should I try again, it is for the right reasons. I don’t blame my exes; the problem has been my own loneliness and feelings of desperation. I need to learn that my identity is not dependent on my job. This will be a tough one; I have hidden myself behind my career for pretty much my entire life, which is undoubtedly why I have had such a dreadful time with my personal life.
I have a long way to go, and one fewer year to get there.