It’s the month of my birthday. This year when I was completing some ritual aspects around the birthday, I thought about this recurrence and how – in our culture and many others – there is this custom of emphasizing and celebrating the moment of your birth.
I have heard that in some indigenous cultures, there isn’t this concept of recognizing the individual birthday, so much so that some Australian aborigines don’t even know their own date of birth. Certainly, recurrences reflect the cultural relationship with time and beliefs around it, and also the balance between individual and collective. In Vietnam, everyone celebrates their birthday on Vietnamese New Year’s Day, which is called “Tet.” They do not place importance on the exact date of birth, and all children become “one year old” on Tet, regardless of their actual date of birth, receiving red envelopes from adults with “lucky money” or “li xi.”
Perhaps it is unthinkable for us to not know our date of birth, but Aborigines have a different context for time altogether. In the hundreds of Aboriginal languages, none of them has a word for “time.” They use the term “dreaming” or “dreamtime” to express an entire world of mythology, cosmology and spiritual vision. In the state of the dream, between sleep and waking, when the mind is in a state of quiet, they find their ceremonies and songs. It is a state connected with mythology because deep archetypes and images of wisdom preside. It is a time of ancestral creation and supernatural beings, with the “Rainbow Serpent” moving across the land, bringing fertility, the rain of life, and magic or misfortune in humans. Dreaming is not only ancestral, it is a time that continues even now in a kind of eternal present. So beginning and end, birth and death, are concepts that become diluted in this flow of magic and multidimensional presence.
Even though these ways of thinking are perhaps closer to the natural essence of life and the universe, somehow I find it reassuring, our way of defining recurring events, remembering important days, using calendars and dates. In this way, we have a map of the time territory, a time that can be quantified and gained (or lost), explored and conquered, saturated with significant events, leaving a trace that no one can erase.
Compleanno e il tempo dei sogni
E’ il mese del mio compleanno. Quest’anno quando stavo compiendo gli aspetti rituali del compleanno, pensavo di questa ricorrenza, di come – nella nostra cultura ed in tante altre – c’è questa usanza di sottolineare e festeggiare il momento della propria nascita. Continue reading