(found on Spellow Lane, beneath a blue jersey)
It was with perhaps great fortune that I received your letter this morning. It was right on time for the occasion, perhaps just as you had intended it.
But reading it left me in a rather perplexed state. I do not understand what would cause you to write in so celebratory a manner, particularly on my behalf. Nothing momentous has occurred, certainly not today. Neither you nor I have achieved any great thing. So I am left wondering what could possibly have happened to fill you with such excitement and good tidings.
Of course the above is written in jest, and I thank you for your well-wishes, perhaps because social convention leaves me with no other option. But we are close enough friends, closer than many of the others who have – with equal ceremony and forethought as you – dropped cards adorned with funny little pre-printed greetings through my mail slot. Therefore I feel comfortable enough airing this little grievance to you.
For really, what is the cause for celebration today? Is it, as I so cynically expect, my mere survival? Everyone is congratulating me for not succumbing to some great illness or for failing to do anything so stupid and reckless that it would result in my death? Or – and again I reference this dark spot due to our relative closeness as friends – are they all celebrating that I have quarantined that particularly dangerous thought into a benign quadrant of my brain and have, as of yet, resisted its calls to perform the unmentionable?
No. It is mere survival that is being celebrated. Mere and mediocre survival, because my life over the past year has been just that: mediocre. I have passed no great milestone, at least no milestone that hasn’t been arbitrarily chucked into the ground by the mob of insecure glory-hunters that preceded me. As I previously mentioned, I have not accomplished anything great: no love, no fortune, no career advancement. Nothing I’ve done in the last week, month or year can be considered by anyone to be anything but average and blah. So why have my friends all chipped in to buy me a chocolate cake?
Generations ago, I would understand the cause for celebration, back when children died of dysentery and whooping cough. But to die, particularly to die young in a reasonably civilized society, is perhaps particularly difficult, either caused by grave misfortune or great stupidity. So are we cheering that the Grim Reaper has yet to call my number or that I have yet to hand it to him myself?
I mean to say this: mere existence is worth nothing. Life must be done, must be striven and must be achieved, at least if it is to be cause for celebration. Mereness, mediocrity, at least the type that has filled my days, that’s worth barely a peep, let alone a song and a cake.