Birthdays and Death-Dates

February 14, 2013

The idea of destiny has always interested me, so bear with me as I revisit it from time to time on this blog. It is a part of our cultural genome, manifested in the celebration of birthdays, independence days, anniversaries, etc. It is closely tied to the very basic human feeling that events are not random, or meaningless, but in some intrinsic way, interrelated. As such, we take pains to mark dates, not merely for the purpose of an objective, impersonal history, but for a deep-rooted sense of their personal significance, almost as if these dates have a claim on our lives, or what defines us,  our “essence”. Even in some objective discourse, there is a focus on events rather than the processes which they are a part of, as if these events constitute a break with history. Thomas Hardy, in a stream of thought representing his character Tess, muses in his book Tess of the d’urberVilles, how in our catalogue of important dates that we mark as we progress through each day of the calendar, we always leave out the one most important date, that of our death. One wonders how this date passes us by every year and we barely notice it, until one day, it sneaks up on us, and claims our life, literally and metaphorically.

Those who feel that certain dates contain some source of “power” (such as birth-dates of religious personalities) other than what they themselves invest them with, through remembrance, are thus easily contradicted by their lack of feeling around these end-dates which remain in the shadows and induce no “power” until they have come to be.  If there is a “power” associated with the night the Quran was revealed, or the day Muhammad or Christ was born, and people claim they can feel it, why does no-one feel the power of so many significant dates of human experience that preceded it, which have lapsed into oblivion, or of those dates which are yet to be claimed by future “breaks” with his history? Why are there no horoscopes around deaths? One wonders if anyone has ever done a reverse astrology, reading a person’s life in terms of the astrological significance of their date of death. Or is death, perhaps, considered less destined than birth?

Thus we can say that it is only their symbolic import that makes events and dates seem significant. And if destiny is causality, then it is rooted in processes combining various factors.