A Slightly Philosophical Amazement at Birthdays
Today is my 53rd natural birthday (No…this is not an April Fool’s joke; I just happen to be born on this day). Over the past several birthdays I’ve continue to be amazed by the number of years given me. I say “given me” partly because of my bent toward philosophy. You see, ontologically speaking, all beings, divine or human, fall into one of two mutually exclusive categories: 1) necessary or 2) contingent. A necessary being is simply a being that has no logical possibility of non-existence; a necessary being exists necessarily. Contingent beings are, well, contingent or dependent upon some other being for their existence. Thus, contingent beings are not necessary, don’t have to exist, and may cease to exist unless immortality is granted them.
As Aristotle, and Anselm after him, has rightly shown, there can be only one Uncaused Cause or necessary being. I am a contingent being and, therefore, not necessary. Hence, the years I have thusfar are not necessary but contingent or dependent upon some other reality which itself is not contingent or dependent (how else could I explain my existence?).
Another reason for my amazement at my extended years is the result of an increasing existential awareness of the fragility of life. Just last week our neighborhood discussion group lost one of its valued members to an untimely death. I suppose that the older we get, the more amazed we are of life’s fleeting dance with reality. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” says James the brother of Jesus.
Although born naturally in 1955, another kind of birth occured on Nov. 23, 1978. I had shared with a close friend, who himself had just committed to Christianity, some difficulties I was having with someone near to me. My friend cut to the chase and told me that I needed to become born again. This meant confessing to Jesus my failures and ask for forgiveness of my sins. Feeling desperate and without hope I realized (or better, was made to realize) that I needed someone other than myself who can help me. So I asked Jesus to enter my life, forgive my sins, and fix my problems. Although my problems were not “fixed,” I immediately and unequivocally knew that something had changed within me and that a new resource was now available to me for life’s difficulties. My Christian friend handed me a Bible and recommended Romans. For some 15 hours straight I read and sought to understand more of what it was that God did to me and in me. Romans was never more alive to me than on that day in November.
Each birthday my natural birth reminds me of my own mortality. Yet, each birthday my spiritual birth reminds me of the promise of immortality and the coming triumph over all things mortal.
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory'”
(1 Corinthians 15:54).