Many Happy Returns of the Day, a meditation of gradually increasing . . . length

The 6AM class was canceled. Very nice.

Tozer was exceptionally good today. Even better.

It is undoubtedly true, as I have said so often, that the church is languishing not for leaders but for the right kind of leaders; for the wrong kind is worse than none at all. Better to stand still than to follow a blind man over a precipice. History will show that the church has prospered most when blessed with strong leaders and suffered the greatest decline when her leaders were weak and time serving. The sheep rarely go much farther than the Shepherd.

sffworld noted my birthday, and though they used the expression “Happy Birthday” of which I have never been fond, since it is a bit vacuous. Still, it was unexpected.

When we celebrate a birthday, I suppose we mean that we are glad that person is alive. I wonder if that isn’t a bit pointless. At 35, what am I doing still alive? I’m not sure I am glad I’m still around in this body.

Do you believe in the pre-existence of the soul? “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee,” the Lord said to Jeremiah, and I sometimes wonder if the Lord meant something other than his foreknowledge. I probably should have paid better attention in Theology when we talked about the ideas on the origin of the soul because neither traducianism nor creationism seem to lend themselves to this concept, and perhaps there is a good reason those are the only options—at least, those are the only ones I remember being taken seriously, though perhaps Plato was mentioned.

But we arrive at this, the most miserable part of our existence—that I can tell—the joys of which are mere happiness, the best of which is derivative, deriving all its strength and power from a realm beyond, deriving its joys and pleasures from the intimations of real joys and solid pleasures which touch this life all too seldom, whose great enjoyment is one consisting almost exclusively in anticipation . . . we arrive at this one, I say, and if we learn anything it is that what we want is not happiness in this world, not even happiness. Who wants happiness when he can have bliss?

Perhaps the best we can say is that we hope that a birthday, all things considered, might be happy. I prefer the cynical wish, Many happy returns of the day. I wished my father as much not long ago, and he was not taken in. He said, as I feel when I am wished a happy birthday, Do not. I think the cyclical nature in the wish, the idea of being stuck on an increasingly unendurable merry-go-round apt for this life, and suitably grim: many happy returns of the day. As children we enjoy novelty of a fair ride, but the music, the slow rise and fall of the dead horse, the monotony if it all somehow begin to wear on us and we begin to feel that the world whose shores lie where the circular limits of the merry-go-round end is perhaps the more interesting, the one with more possibilities. We certainly begin to feel that the world of the merry-go-round is fake, that at its heart is a lie. That other is the world that in our innocence we abandoned for the allure of happiness of the merry-go-round, and it is to be hoped that when we are finally rescued from the world of our choice, we will not only be thoroughly sick of happiness and ready for something a better.

Is it the world of our choice? Job wasn’t too certain of that, though under the circumstances, one wonders if he was being entirely objective about it. What is it people think in their secret heart? Do Christians secretly believe that somehow it isn’t all their own personal fault, afraid to admit otherwise? Curious the example of Job, and he was given no answers, just told what he was definitely not allowed to think. I personally am inclined to think that life in this body somehow is a consequence of a knowing mistake I made and which I am now paying for, however lightly. The world is a world of consequences, and the consequences of our ignorance and imprudence would certainly provide a comprehensive theory to explain sublunar life. Was I a soul standing on the banks of a river, wondering what the waters tasted like the same way a stupid child is taken in by the cheap glory of a merry-go-round? I can’t help feeling somebody warned me against it too. I am afraid that our world is the world of our choice, though it was not meant to be.

We learn to long to be born back into a world not of the will of man, but the unspoiled will of God. We learn to surrender our choice, repent it, and become eklektos: chosen. We must learnt to accept another choice not of our own making, and with none of the consequences of our ignorance.

Let my birthday, then, come to me with the mercilessness of repeating years as penance reminding me of original sin: that I learn from it some wisdom, that I become so acquainted with the heart of lie of the merry-go-round I foolishly desired as to loathe the lie, and learn when I stand alone but not unobserved on the brink of another glimmering possibility never again to seek the false knowledge of oblivion, the cheap gains of happiness, the painted lie of the serpent’s squalid, itinerant fair. Then I shall be able to celebrate my existence, and perhaps even find myself in a better position to inquire as to its origins. Then the relentless mockery of that “Happy Birthday” will take on something of the joy of merriment, and I shall, perhaps, even feel pleasure at its sound at last.

2 thoughts on “Many Happy Returns of the Day, a meditation of gradually increasing . . . length

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