Interesting Times

My Happiest Day/Leaving

By Pat Gourley

Sage Story Telling
October, 2016
 

From the Pali Canon:

The Buddha was speaking to a group of monks. He said, “Monks, suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole into the water. A wind from the West would push it East; a wind from the East would push it West; a wind from the North would push it South; a wind from the South would push it North. And suppose a blind sea turtle were there. It would come to the surface only once every 100 years. Now what do you suppose the chances would be that a blind turtle, coming once to the surface every 100 years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole?”

And the monks answered, “It would be very unusual, Sir, that a blind turtle coming to the surface once every hundred years would stick his neck into the yoke.”

And the Buddha replied, “And just so, it is very, very rare that one attains the human state.”

My happiest day was January 12th, 1949. This was the day of my birth and it took place in La Porte Indiana. Based on the Buddha’s thoughts above I was one lucky fella. Putting blind turtles aside and relying instead on actual current knowledge of the development from a fertilized egg to viable fetus your chances are probably less than 20% of making the grade. A very significant majority of embryos never make it beyond the first couple days or weeks following conception.

If according to the most extreme “right-to-lifers” human life begins at conception then heaven is overwhelmingly populated with embryos. Or do embryos have fully actualized souls with developed human personalities? Sorry but that is a bit beyond my comprehension. And if you do believe in God having a direct hand in inflicting his will on all sentient life on the planet then that would make him by far the world’s leading abortionist. There really are a lot of holes in this whole “God thing” when you start to critically ponder it, which of course is why the whole business of “faith” was cooked up. To quote Dana Carvey’s SNL character the Church Lady; “how convenient”!

 And the gauntlet doesn’t end with a live birth but the odds of making it to at least the age of reason, which the Catholic Church tells us is age seven, is certainly much better than in ages gone by. If, however, you are born in many of the poorer countries of the world your chances of dying in infancy are still considerable.

So I must say that the happiest day of my life came with the added bonuses of being born a white male in the United States. This could only have been better if I had been born white in a western European democracy, post 1945 of course.

I suppose I could also say the happiest day of my life, the one with the greatest long-term daily benefit, was the day I came out. Only problem there is pinning down the exact date. My coming out was certainly a process with at times fitful starts and stops, a gradual evolution lasting from about age ten until my mid-twenties. I was certainly much happier at the end of this process than at the beginning. There was though no particular day filled with bolts of lightening from on high and a choir of angels singing to usher me to the promised queer land.

I therefore must return to my day of birth as my happiest since this provided the opportunity for all that was to follow. I am very happy that I was not one of the millions of embryos that inadvertently wind up getting flushed down a toilet or expelled into an open sewer. I truly am one lucky son-of-a-bitch.

I am now left to often ponder what it will be like to take my final leave. Let’s face it all the other leaving one engages in life is really small potatoes compared to the final exit. It is often the paralyzing and at times incomprehensible fear of our vaporizing into nothingness after we take our final breath that has spawned the very many human creations of an afterlife and higher power. If only we aren’t really leaving but rather transitioning to something better and eternal, the ultimate bit of delusional thinking. The idea that I am so great that the Universe can’t possibly go on without me is now in my mind simply deluded human hubris.

Though I am convinced that the human dance on this planet is a going to be limited and very short in the grand scheme of things that does not in any way diminish how fucking amazing it will have been. In growing into the label of humanist, or atheist if I am in a particularly ornery mood, I want to be able to say that when I do take my final leave I will have left things a bit more conducive to other sentient beings able to experience and enjoy the wonder of being one of those lucky blind turtles.

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