Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Famous Dead Person!

A weird phenomenon, celebrating the birthday of a person who long-ago passed away. This is especially true of celebrities and historical figures, succumbing to the mortal coil years, decades and even centuries ago. It is understandable wanting to commemorate through remembrance the life lived, but is it necessary to expound upon the abstract of “had they lived…”? To ponder about this or that in terms of such seems ridiculous, and for one reason:  the individual in question is dead.

Take Jules Verne, and what would be his 183rd birthday this year. Some have entertained the idea that had he lived to see 2011, the prolific writer of science fiction would notice many of the incredible creations of his imagination having come to fruition. That’s fine, speculating on the merging of fiction and reality. What would be even more fantastical though is Verne reaching his 183rd birthday, and living to see 2011! Frankly, it takes away from Verne’s foresight in his time that has seen the development of those ideas in our time. Had Leonardo da Vinci lived to the 20th century, he would have seen many of his inventions as well; he also would be over 500 years old. That though is why men like da Vinci and Verne are recognized as visionaries, because they never saw the fruits of their imaginations in their own time. Instead, generations have passed the torch as a natural progression of human existence to make it happen.

In the case of some, rather than celebrate their birth we reflect on their death. This seems more natural, if not more reasonable. Remembering how they were, rather than how they might have been had they lived. When was John Lennon born? Off the top of my head I have no clue, but I can tell you he died December 8, 1980. Forever 40 years old. (I looked it up.) Had he lived, he might have been a Justin Bieber fan; we will never know though, because a deranged stalker murdered him before the pop sensation was even born. The same is true of many others whose death overshadows their birth in remembrance – John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King instantly springing to mind, as well as the 27 Club. Shortened lives whose impact is recognized more in their passing than in their beginning. We cannot know what might be had they lived.

Definitely, the world would be a different one had any deceased person lived to celebrate more birthdays. The truth is every birthday reached also reminds that we are all one year closer to the greatest equalizer. If you care to celebrate thereafter…just make sure you get me something nice. After all, it’s the thought that counts.

As for George Washington…happy birthday Mr. President, 279 years old today had you lived!

©2011 Steve Sagarra

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