It’s not just another birthday.
I sat and thought about it only to realize that 25 is really just an arbitrary number. We rely on a 10-based number system, formulated merely by chance (or luck depending on who you talk to). I also don’t know what draws people to perfect symmetry, but it has led us to have an affinity towards decimals of 10, 100 being the best of them. Other numbers like 87, 74, or 91 are left undesired. See how A dollar is a 100 cents, 100% equals perfection, and how we love the idea of 100 bottles of beer on the wall. Haha, I guess there are the “rogue” favorite numbers too: 12 inches is a foot, 12 doughnuts is a dozen, and 60 seconds a minute; but we can’t really count on these numbers (no pun… lol).
This only further highlights my point, 25 is not just another birthday. Call it rather the “happy quarter-century”; “happy mid-midlife Crisis”; or my favorite “you’re ¼ done”. Check my facebook wall if you don’t believe me. Irony: 100 years is actually not the average life expectancy, not even close, it’s just easier to phrase it that way. So now I must deal with this nagging phantom. How “25” has successfully cajoled my loved ones, friends and culture to go against me I don’t know. Under its submission, I take this year to be the first of many where I am recommended to start thinking about marriage. For myself, I wish I could say that I refuse to cave into pressure, especially to those, like “25”, who are founded upon subjectivity. But, I’m human, just like you (even if you won’t admit it ;).
So all this marriage talk has introduced me to the surprisingly gigantic subculture of weddings. Who knew that a purchase made only once in the life of two people (a 1:2 person ratio, ideally) could produce an economy large enough to sustain magazine sales, businesses, stores, jobs and other things… all.year.long.!
Well I’m still single, and really am learning to appreciate its many hidden treasures. As such, chances are that I’ll be a best man (groomsman – check!) sooner than I’ll be a groom. This was probably the catalyst to what eventually led me to google search, “the worst wedding toast ever”. I’m glad I did, because about 4 searches down I found this great story, the link is at the end of this entry. It’s about a best man who talks about his worst day ever: involving jury duty, murder, and a teen receiving the death sentence. The speech shows that he was a little oblivious to what was appropriate for the occasion. But Gilbert, the reporter of the story, is gracious enough, not to dismiss this guy as an idiot, rather to look for his sentiment behind the speech.
So that’s my extremely long introduction to the purpose of this note. I found this quote so compelling and wanted to write about it; it’s from the last 2 paragraphs (emphasis added by me):
“I’ve pondered the meaning of this story for years, and ultimately I’ve decided that I get it. This story represents the perfect example of the absolute value of human emotion. I’ve heard it said before that the human psyche cannot always tell the difference between good events and bad events; all we can feel is the tremor of the earth. Which is what happened to our best man, I believe. He was so overcome by happiness for his friend and he was so out of touch with his emotions that he couldn’t express that happiness appropriately. All he could do was remember the last time he had felt so moved by something, and so he tried to express that. Sure, there’s nothing parallel about an old man getting shot in the face and a dear friend getting married, unless – of course – you measure human emotion by the weight. In which case, the two events carry exactly the same impact.
Which is to say that I think I finally understand what the best man was trying to convey that afternoon, and I raise my glass to the poor guy for his valiant and hopeless attempt to celebrate.”
This story had me sit to contemplate the surprisingly narrow spectrum that humans have in processing our experiences. Specifically for this article, Gilbert focuses on our emotions. She is saying that this man felt overwhelmed with emotions from the experience of his friend’s wedding similarly to that of his sentencing a guilty teen to death. She is suggesting that in life we encounter moments that are beyond what we can process, these moments are thus left without or significantly lacking in interpretation. The implications of her observation had left me stunned. I think it is the idea that floating in the hypothetical are the many possibilities of emotions left unfelt, simply because they lie outside of my spectrum of feeling. They remain in the realm of the potential never to take shape in the actual, only because of my limited range. How many experiences, emotions, thoughts, epiphanies and the like escape me every day? Not to say that Gilbert is down playing the variety in the many shades and textures of our emotions that we do experience. But she introduces mystery into our interpretive framework, which leaves me so humbled.
Maybe it’s better to put my thoughts within the categories of humanity’s ability to survive in extreme temperatures. Let’s say hypothetically that human life can only survive within the spectrum of -50 degrees to 180 degrees. Anything below -50, and above 180 degrees would kill us. Within that range of -50 – 180 there are a variety of experiences. For example, 80 degrees would be in the category of comfortable, 60 could be a brisk morning. Even within the same temperature, however, could be a variety of experiences, like how 100 degrees will feel different under the shade verses in direct sunlight.
But what experiences escape us that are beyond our range? For instance, I know that 1,000,000 degrees is extremely hot, but I have no way of processing what that heat feels like. These limitations bound me to the point that my body feels no difference between 1,000,000 and 9,999,999,999,999,999 degrees. In each temperature my senses would explode faster than the speed that my nerves could carry the message. The irony in all this is that we are able to logically correct our body’s intuition to the obvious fact that there is a tremendous gap between the two temperatures. Couldn’t we also say the same thing even for those temperatures within our spectrum? How many of us can tell the difference between 70 and 70.0000000000000000000000001 degrees? Experiences of the minute detail escape us just as much as the ones beyond our range.
My point being, that the spectrum of human experience is very narrow… It compels me to forfeit and admit to the claim that my life is more narrow and sheltered than I once thought. My “spectrum” strictly limits my experiences in all categories: emotions, thoughts, loves, joys, appreciations. My goal is not to say, “look at all the things we DON’T know, thus questioning all that we DO know”. No, I think its very clear that 20 degrees is colder than 80, and there is no experience that can deny that. But I can’t help but let my mind play with this thought feeding my desire to want more. To be hungry for all the feelings I’ve never felt, but were meant to feel. I’m almost greedy for all that life has to offer, like wanting to drink the whole ocean, but only having to work with the stomach I have. Realizing that the sensation I get with every new epiphany is like observing one star, while blind to all the others in the universe, omg.
For all of eternity which one do you think it’ll be? That God will increasingly stretch our spectrum to experience more of his “infinity”, or make us more sensitive to the unnoticed details in order to appreciate his “infinity” within our spectrum? Maybe it is a mix of both, for the sake of balance? Humbled is the only word that can describe how I feel when I think about all that which I have not yet explored of Him in our relationship. In fact, how I have even begun to experience him thus far is amazing; can’t wait.