“Of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament, none is as pervasive and important as the shadows revealed in the relationship between “forty,” and the fulfillment of promises.”
– Todd Dennis and Richard Anthony, The Significance of the Number Forty
Throughout the Bible, the number forty is used to represent a period of testing or judgment. It would seem it is the proper length of time necessary to accomplish some major part of Gods plan in his dealings with various portions of humanity. Days of rain. Days on the mount. Days being tempted… in the desert, no less. Length of the temple. Pieces of silver. Years of a king’s reign. And on and on.
Forty weeks are also the length of a pregnancy.
So, as I sit here on the anniversary of my fortieth year of life, I cannot help but ponder – have I really learned anything? “Older and wiser”? I think I can say, with complete and utter honesty,… not so much.
I spent over half my life as a Catholic. Rocked that shit ’til I was 24. I was exposed to things at that point in my life that changed me. Changed my vision so drastically, that I could never look at anything the same. The curtain had been pulled open on the little man working the levers. The great and powerful OZ was nothing more than a traveling salesman.
I felt lost. I didn’t know what to believe, if anything. Wrong/right place, wrong/right time – I found Dostoevsky and the Existentialist writers. The concept of the “Godless universe” had taken hold.
During this period of my life I was living in Seattle. My environment matched my soul. I had an eyebrow piercing, dyed my hair black and occasionally wore eyeliner. I used to write the word “ugly” across my knuckles and put strips of masking tape on various places of my outfits with Sharpee written messages like “tragically hip”. (Couldn’t make this up if I tried.) It wasn’t long after reading Nausea by Sartre that I discovered the poems of Richard Brautigan. The first book of his I read was The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster. The first poem was General Custer Versus the Titanic.
“Yes! it’s true all my visions
have come home to roost at last.
They are all true now and stand
around me like a bouquet of
lost ships and doomed generals.
I gently put them away in a
beautiful and disappearing vase. “
I loved him. He was this ramshackle-philosopher poet with the hair of a mad man and the mustache of a guru. His poems spoke so openly about cravings and doubt and loss and sex. His voice was my voice, and mine was his. Twice Sold Tales, a used bookstore in the Capitol Hill district, had four of his poetry books for sale. I bought them all and read them all that same day. I used to always have a copy of at least one of his books, as well as Leaves Of Grass and my notebook, with me at all times. (Hey! You never know.)
Even though I felt I had been expelled from Eden, I still had this deeply ingrained belief in God. I may no longer have been a practicing Catholic, or anything for that matter. But, I still found myself occasionally saying “Please, God…_____”. Even though I didn’t believe, I still did. And, I still do.
So, here I am. At forty. I look at my life, my time in the desert or on the mount, because I have to. I look at what I have achieved. I look at what I have lost. My failings and successes. My triumphs and defeats. I look at the people who have come and gone throughout my life. The ones whose names I remember. The ones whose faces I forget. I acknowledge the pain I have caused and the various acts of selfishness I have committed. I look at the joy I have brought and the generosity of my spirit. I look at the theater I have been a part of. The stories I have written. The artwork I have won awards for. And, above all else, the music. The songs I will leave behind me when I go. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but, still, I wrote songs. All small achievements in the grand scheme – but, achievements, none-the-less. My achievements.
I look at my overwhelming ability for kindness and love, and I acknowledge it as genuine. As who I am.
Now, I face the undiscovered country. The Star Trek one, not the Hamlet one. In other words; the future. An uncertain future. But, a future all the same.
I know good people. I have a good family. My son is the best. And, I have proven to be a “good guy” after all.
Here’s to us. Happy Birthday to me.