And graveyards are more enjoyable in the winter, I feel.
But whatever… We were in Paris for my birthday and that’s now a summer activity. And the Père Lachaise cemetery was our one hat tip to touristy activity. (The main purpose of the minibreak was shopping. Also drinking.)
So we arrived on the Friday, which was my actual birthday, dropped our bags off and zipped straight over to the cemetery to say hi to Oscar Wilde.
In that respect, it wasn’t like I had planned to visit a graveyard on my birthday. I’m just too fat to be that emo.
The First Lesson
Turning twenty nine is a bit weird.
From an actuarial standpoint, the number of days left in which you can continue to make incandescently bad life decisions is drying up.
When I was younger, I just assumed I had a really healthy attitude to mortality. You live, you die… It’s not an unreasonable conclusion that your existence continues in some form after that. So have at it.
As you are dragged shrieking into middle adulthood like an obese man being dragged from a buffet you start to see it a bit differently.
And then you go to Père Lachaise. Which is huge.
Walking past acre after acre after acre of long-rotted corpses in search of one single effete homo who has influenced your life in some way, you start to reach another not-unreasonable conclusion.
There are benchmarks.
Why wasn’t I stopping at this person’s grave or that person’s grave? What did Oscar do with his existence that was so different? We all end up here so what exactly am I doing with this physical existence?
The Second Lesson
The second lesson is gratitude.
It’s not a given that I have another fifty or so spins around the sun. It’s not a given that I have even one more in me.
So I’ve had twenty nine solar revolutions already. That’s good. That makes me extremely fortunate. Because there are a lot of heartbreakingly small tombs in Père Lachaise.
The Final Lesson
They mean nothing. Solar revolutions are a preposterous yardstick for judging people’s lives. Here is a much better yardstick:
- Are you loved?
- Do you love?
- Are you happy?
Because you don’t know how many birthdays you’ve got left.
Time isn’t a useful metric for assessing your life’s value. In Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, here is how Death herself puts it:
“You get what everyone gets. A lifetime.”
Happy birthday me.