* To anyone who suffered through yesterday’s post, my apologies for the terrible editing job. This is what I get sometimes when I try to be coherent too late in the day. I have corrected the post on my website and promise to do a better job at proofreading.
What exactly is it we celebrate when we observe an anniversary? Having survived this long? Not having yet succumbed to attrition? One’s accomplishments and victories? Do we recognize the fullness of a life, or politely focus only on the high points – the greatest hits?
In some cultures, it is the person having the birthday or the anniversary who gives the gifts, rather than receiving them. I remember reading about one culture where “birthday” celebrations don’t happen annually on the date a person was born. They happen when a person decides they have grown sufficiently enough to warrant a celebration.
In this way, a person can acknowledge what they have received from others that has brought them to this milestone. In addition to expressing gratitude and acknowledging reliance, it also codifies indebtedness: those who have received are obligated by an unspoken contract to give in return at some point. Reciprocity binds us.
We can choose to make an anniversary – particularly a collective one – like a new year celebration: a time for gratitude and joy where appropriate, a time for reflection on where we’ve come from and where we want to go, and an opportunity to live intentionally with the question of what we owe one another in our common life.
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