Birthdays are great, with or without the Grand Canyon

Your correspondent at the Grand Canyon

It’s my birthday and this year’s attempt to mark the passing of another year of my life feels slightly less momentous than the last.

Then, we were stood – at this very moment 365 days ago – dangling our toes (gingerly) over the Grand Canyon.

We were at the Arizona end of the Canyon, looking down into the valley, sculpted millions of years ago by the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Surely that stupendous geological record of time puts decades of human birthdays somewhat in the shade?

What is the point of marking a few decades in the life of a mere human being when we can see billion of years of Earth’s geological history right there, in the Grand Canyon?

There is a point.

There is good reason to mark humans’ puny move through their quotidian routine.

By some accounts, not least Herodotus, the fifth century BC Greek historian, Persians were awfully good at birthday celebrations: “The richer Persians cause an ox, a horse, a camel, and an ass to be baked whole and so served up to them: the poorer classes use instead the smaller kinds of cattle.” They also drank to excess at birthday celebrations and ate an “abundance of dessert”.

It sounds somewhat like modern birthday celebrations and I’m rooting for them. With or without the Grand Canyon.

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