”To everything, turn, turn, turn” The Byrds, adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes
My brother and I had the following short conversation in mid-August 1979 whilst backpacking through Europe and the Middle East.
I: “Where do you want to have your birthday?”
Brother: “At a place on the planet where no-one can point to later.”
So we took a 3-day back-packer deck class trip for $6 (a tea, olives and bread breakfast included) on a Black Sea ferry out of Istanbul for his 25 birthday – which turned out to be quite a baptismal event for many things to follow later in life.
The significance of anniversaries can be summaries in a clutch-full of verbs: Celebrate. Create. Remember. Remind. Recommit. Review. Rededicate. Reframe.
Some events that shaped societies: The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. The 9/11 Twin Tower and other atrocities. Vesuvius 79AD. London 1666.
Etched in minds, memories and history. And the way we look at disasters now – natural or human-made. Affecting the way we live – sometimes with quiet resignation, at other times with reflection, even rebelliousness – questioning our faith in our fellowman, society, government and even The Creator.
These events are an ideal time to reflect on Life, our mission as earthlings and our individual reasons for being. It provides the backdrop against which we measure where we came from, where we are now and where we are headed: What has been achieved and what still remains to be done – individually, as a country, a society and as a planet – seeking for improved social, environmental, economic and personal outcomes and resilience through application of our abilities.
Dates and events resonate with people.
Anniversaries – postcards from the past to reopen and help us bring into focus what has happened since an event – happy or tragic, individually or collective – and how experience has helped us change and grow, shaping us into whom we are today.
Countries pause in remembrance of those who fell during endless wars that humanity keep waging on itself – reflecting on the futility of it all, the value of human life and the tragedy of lives cut short.
National day celebrations become rallying points for countries and individuals to take stock – fostering respect for the values that make them what they stand for whilst building a collective memory.
The end of one year and start of a new one provides an opportunity to recommit to “New Year’s” resolutions about health, relationships, commitments and other matters.
Whilst looking at the past, you may recognize trends throughout your life that can help anticipate new challenges which you might face – and possible solutions to them. I found that my life evolves in 5-7 year as well as in 15-20 year cycles.
Much of our relationships are built on memories. We gather for celebrations – being it a birth, obtaining a degree, marriage, even a divorce – that provide us with opportunities to meet with those with whom we strengthen relationships and to create newer memories for the future.
Times are when we celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us – a brother, a parent or a partner. My youngest brother and I decided on his 25th birthday that the longer-living one will celebrate and toast the other one’s birthday and day of departure with two beers and 10 specific songs which we both liked. I still maintain that tradition – after many years.
Anniversaries bring more than just nostalgic reflection. They provide a point of departure for the future. Society has since the dawn of mankind marked important natural cycles and stages – being it personal, communal or spiritual in nature.
We celebrate the changing of seasons, the end of a year, a century or a millennium and the beginning of a new one – reminding us that in what may at times seem a chaotic world, there are rhythm, structure and points of reference.
Iconic structures such as Stonehenge and the Pyramids are reminders of past achievements that have historical, religious, astronomical and cultural significance beyond their age.
Whether one is spiritual or in addition practices a religion, significant events are almost certain to happen in any life – providing an opportunity around which to rally in the process of personal transformation and striving for a higher level of consciousness where mind, body and soul are in harmonious balance.
The dates of these happenings may be regarded as the beginning of a spiritual rebirth – to be celebrated on that given date in the future.
- Events shape societies and their anniversaries provide ideal opportunities to reflect.
- Anniversaries bring into focus the experiences that have shaped us.
- It may help us recognize trends and with it, anticipate new challenges that we may face.
- Much of our relationships are built on memories.
- Anniversaries provide a point of departure for the future, marking important stages and cycles.
- Most religions celebrate significant events around which to rally and recommit.
- Take time to reflect on anniversaries – and their importance.
- Celebrate the experiences and tipping points that have shaped you throughout life.
- Recognize the cycles in your life and use them to good effect.
- Celebrate the living as well as the lives of those who departed earlier.
- Let anniversaries be both points of reflection and points of departure for the future.
- Celebrate religious and spiritual rebirths.
(“PERSPECTIVES” are excerpts from my forthcoming book of the same name, to be published by Partridge Publications in early 2015.)