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Turning 21

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We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other's opposite and complement.

- Hermann Hesse, Narcissus & Goldmund

Tomorrow I turn 21. Tomorrow I drink but it's not about that, especially not for a Parisian. Days carry the importance we give them because days are days. It's memories that make equal days unequal. The high points of our lives often happen on days of tradition, and since we humans have materialized on the Big Timeline of the universe, we've always made days to celebrate for certain more or less respected reasons. Think Valentine's for once recent dubious ritual.

The gift of this 21st if the excuse. I was arbitrarily born on the day I was born, but no one will care about that tomorrow. People will forget scientific skepticism. And that's a powerful force to be harnessed. Look at celebrities like kingmaker Scooter Braun for instance, who just yesterday asked his believers and beliebers to do something for others in honor of his birthday. That request, though it finds its grounds in the arbitrary day on which Scooter popped out of his mother, was replete with meaning. Just imagine how many good deeds were incited by a chance date and a Tweet. That's all that was needed.

I don't have three million Twitter followers to pull off commensurate white magic, though to my dear readers I do say do something kind today. In my case, I hope to create and take enjoyment in the gathering of friends and family that will be given the chance to happen because of this excuse of mine. I know that some of my most significant adventures were impelled by shy reasons. And sometimes I've waited for one though I wanted to go on the journey anyways, like roadtripping across the country. Sounds like a lyrical experience that you would want to do regardless especially with your best friends and your favorite music, but maybe you've been waiting for an extra something, like a dream job offer in California that you'll now be symbolically driving towards. I'm moved at the idea that some people are going to drive or train from a few hours away and that my brother is flying in just for the night. These are the things that happen for the symbolic watersheds of our lives, and it's up to us to create a life highlight for all those present.

My brother's surprise announcement that he was coming immediately reminded me of a book he gave me two or was it three years ago, a classic. Siddharta, by Hesse. And the dedication he wrote goes as follows:

This journey has lots of twists and turns. I'll be with you along the entire way.

A platitude! No, how about that's philosophically self-evident, to quote Julian Barnes! In another place, yes, but if you read Hesse you see that a theme that recurs is that of dichotomous friendships. Arguably, all authors write the same story again and again. It's that two or three sentence life obsession and philosophy that characterizes them in history. And the story that Hesse likes to tell is that of friends who become lifelong friends and follow two disparate pathways through the years, once in a while smashing into each other at what always becomes symbolic nodes in their lives. Think of two sinuating and symmetrical curves, Narcissus the one who studies and Goldmund the one who lives. They'll meet. They'll meet as youths, they'll meet on the way, and they'll meet at the end and share and compare and maybe even yearn, a firefly leaving a trail of light as it wings along a long mirror and once in a while bangs into its reflection for a quick catch up before bouncing again until who knows when.

Coming together, dancing together (maybe), catching up and seeing how lives are going because social media does not tell you how lives are really going: that quickly becomes a good use of the potent celebration. Upon first arriving at UPenn, I didn't take campus traditions seriously. Dichotomously, a good friend of mine participated in every campus occasion and as a class president worked towards making them bigger occasion still, more glorious in our souvenirs. And I think that's a good thing.

Irrationality is beautiful. We're built as emotional machines and we're given plenty of excuses to celebrate by archaic and modern tradition. When these excuses come by, I encourage you to use them to make something grand.