On my ninth birthday I sat in the armchair in my living room and felt overwhelmingly sad. There was wrapping paper on the floor and what I’m sure were wonderful presents, and a cake too, but all I could think about was that time was passing me by and I could do nothing to stop it. My first decade was nearing an end and I was going to have to grow up.
This is completely true because I remember the feeling vividly. My mother reassured me that I was still a child but it didn’t help, because in my head, to be nine was entirely different from being eight. It was a milestone and I had reached it before I was ready.
I wasn’t precocious, I was just keenly self-aware. But either way, the point is, I was wistful about time passing, at the age of nine.
And could you blame me? All I had ever known was to be a small child and now on this day that was full of surprises and cards and cake, it hit me that some day very soon I would be a big child and I would have to accept all the responsibilities that went with it.
I’m 25 now. I know, ancient. People older than me especially like to hear me say that. They never sigh and roll their eyes and remark “What I’d do to be 25 again..”
(But seriously, a quarter of a century and not a novel to my name..)
There’s a reason I’m writing all this. I’ve spent the whole day translating an academic essay about Paul Feyerabend, an Austrian philosopher who was all about relativism, before he put it in perspective.
Feyerabend believed a lot of nonsense which makes my head spin but that’s neither here nor there.
He got me thinking about the curse -and the blessing – of relativism.
Alexander the Great had become great king of Asia Minor by the time he was 25. James Joyce composed the politically poignant poem “Et Tu Healy” at nine. Mark Zuckerberg was a billionaire at 23 and Justin Bieber is about seven and a half.
I could be here all day.
As most of you know, my accomplishments are few and far between and despite my best intentions, I do sometimes think about all the more wonderful people in the world.
And I don’t usually dwell on them because I am too busy with my quarter-life crisis and because wallowing, given the enormous privileges I enjoy, is quite obscene.
But I couldn’t get way from relativism this week. The news was full of the findings of a study that confirmed that Facebook “makes you miserable.”
Apparently, looking at beautiful people on beautiful holidays with beautiful cocktails doesn’t make you feel good, especially if you’re the kind of person that lurks, rather than gets involved on social networks.
So to spite Feyerabend, who despised the empirical method, I spent the week lurking, trying to find out whether other people’s more beautiful lives were making me miserable.
Further research is needed.
But the more I looked at it, especially when I logged off Facebook, the more mind-boggling it all became.
There are infinite comparisons you could make. You could compare yourself to someone with nicer hair or to one of the rats that skirts about on the tracks of the underground. You could think about how insignificant you are in the cosmos, or about how LSB didn’t scrub the pot, even though he said he would. You could think about everything you are or everything you’re not.
But when you pop on your onesie, sit back with a cup of Barry’s tea and really think about it, you realise that it’s all a load of nonsense.
The only thing worth envying is happiness. And envy doesn’t get you there.
Chocolate, beer, nice people and a good sense of humour do.
And on that note, Feyerabend, whose name rather ironically translates as “Beer O’Clock” has left me craving an Erdinger.
But my fridge is empty and it’s dark and snowy outside. And I suppose that relatively speaking, I’m rather happy and cosy in my chair, munching on some milk chocolate and writing my very first ever philosophical treatise.