A birthday wish

One year ago, for my 38th birthday, all I could wish and hope for was the absence of toothache. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get it. ‘If and only if’, my daily mantra became, ‘my mind is not distracted by that pain in the upper jaw, so very close to the brain, I will do great things’. My life pretty much revolved around this and it contitutes a dent in my biography, so to speak.

I have been working on a job that lacks even a shimmer of meaning when measured by my admittedly high standards (now, that sounds a lot more eloquent than ‘I hate my fucking job’ doesn’t it?) to earn the money for half a dozen dentists to drill, fill, crown, and whatever, my mouth. As of yet, that pain isn’t totally gone and for my 39th I wish, again, the absence of irritation and the ability to focus.

This might sound dramatic but it really isn’t so bad. I know of people whose wife died of cancer or, perhaps worse, suicide (read about our remarkable ‘ice man’ Wim Hof and how he overcame his wife’s suicide), people who have aids and tbc yet refuse to be defeated, athletes with hand nor feet and – I’ll be damned if life is a pissing contest of doom and gloom.

For this new year I wish focus. To me personally, that translates into no more nasty nervous distractions like that toothache, so that I can focus on getting focused. I can focus on doing my regular meditation, eating a healthy diet, taking cold showers, doing physical exercise, you name it. These things both seem to require and produce focus, so what I wish for the new year is a way into this catch-22 vortex.

a religion or some other story that pictures the unintelligible as an anthropomorphic and often sadistic power that manufactures ultimate meaning and always perverts one of our noblest feelings, that of humility.

It wil be my fortieth year and I am going to say here that a good way to celebrate such a milestone in a human life is to find a Cause that is ‘bigger than yourself’. By that I don’t mean a religion or some other story that pictures the unintelligible as an anthropomorphic and often sadistic power that manufactures ultimate meaning and always perverts one of our noblest feelings, that of humility. It is no trivial task either: I think that now, 129 years after Nietzsche collapsed on the streets of Torino, the specter of nihilism goes around again, and can poison our fragile idea of a shared goal that can claim ultimate meaningfulness. We may stammer our enlightened formula of the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and still the nihilist will shrug because the existence of humanity is no ultimate goal. Indeed I think we can speak of practical philosophy as a way of countering this nihilism, or to put it more aggressively, to cut off its oxygen supply.

So, what sort of goal could be ‘bigger than myself’? And should it be a whole lot bigger or is it enough when it’s just a little bit bigger? Could it be something like ensuring permanence of human culture on this blue planet (permaculture) or helping this human species and its successors to colonize the rest of our solar system and ultimately escape before the sun gobbles up the earth (elonmuskism)? Or are these ideas too big, so that ‘being a part of it’ is no meaningful concept, like it is not meaningful for an atom to be part of an acorn as much as it is meaningful for the acorn to be part of the oak. Perhaps I should ponder ideas that provide both myself and the greater whatever-it-is-we-are-in-it-all-together with the optimal amount of meaning, where optimal is something like the greatest leverage?

Above, I wrote I wish focus. In the last two paragraphs I lost that focus in an attempt to ‘flow’ writingly to someplace beautiful. To repeat it for a world in which the beast of nihilism has been slain (shouldn’t we slay it every night in our dreams lest we cease to be human?): Focus translates into our better cooperation on the rapidly aggravating problems humanity faces. More serious grown-up work that adresses inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, poverty, illiteracy, diseases, religious fanaticism, species extinction, habitat destruction, and here we go again – focusing on one thing that is only meaningfully bigger than yourself is not easy. But I have an entire year.

A birthday wish was originally published on Meandering home


January 12. Birthday.

It’s my birthday today. We get up at five am but of course Mr. Maasai Chief is not there. We ring him and he is still far away. We decide to go with another car and it seems we are going to have a friendly relation with the driver. But he has smelled money. He has betrayed us by promising to take us to the Maasai Mara, including a ride inside there (since that was why he had taken the 4wd). In the end it turned out that it was just the taxi to the entry of the Maasai Mara. The guy’s name is Edwin and I tell you, beware of him. Beware of all the guys in that area. They smell your money and they are relentless like the vultures in the park.

So we are left in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly there is a big jeep and I have to pay 100$ for the game drive. Since it is my birthday, I pay, but I decide that this is my last touristy thing in Kenya. I also pay the park entries for me and my friends. I reckon it must be so comfortable to have “no money”. I wanna try that some day. The big jeep takes us to see the big five and we have big fun. Yeah! Giraffe, Wildebeest, Ostrich, Vulture, and Hartebeest. Or…? Ah, yes, of course. We have seen Hippo, Rhino, Lion, Elephant, and Water Buffalo and plenty of them. It was very cool and generated awesome pictures for Charity Travel. See? You can combine the good with the cool.

We pass by a posh safari lounge and pay the park entrance. In the afternoon the driver shows us more but demands more money. I say no, and use the power I invent.
“This is kidnapping. If you don’t drop us at the Talek gate I will sue you for kidnapping. I know people. I know the MP of Kisumu west.”
The driver was shocked. Kenya adds a good whine and we go to the Talek gate. No more tourist milking for today. That idiot driver even lied to us about the price of diesel to make himself seem poor.

Anyway, we find a cheap place to stay and have a good night with friendly people. Tomorrow we will hitchhike and they will all help us and it won’t cost us a dime, I dream.