tomorrow is my thirtyninth birthday. that is not cause for celebration. after nearly two years being trapped in a place i have hated since the moment i arrived with no end in sight as world borders remain tightly shut against the twentyfirst-century plague, the result of our disrespect for animal life and desire for freedom over peace and harmony, marking another year of aging feels even less desirable than it usually does — and i hate birthdays with an unmitigated passion. why would i celebrate my life getting closer to its end? what does age really get anyone unless their chief desire in life is to be able to legally engage in activities that should have long since been banned as too dangerous — sucking on burning sticks of tightly-wrapped cancer precursors or swallowing poison with the intent to dull the active mind at least temporarily? these do not sound like things to get excited by but they are the usual birthday thoughts. and the cake is always a lie. i promise you.
but this isn’t a cause for depressive writing. i mean, i’m severely, clinically-depressed. i have been all my life and i’ve been treated for it. i can function — how many books have i published in the last five years and how many articles do i share here in addition to my teaching schedule? but misery is a fundamental constant in my life, especially my life trapped in the united kingdom with no hope of quick escape. i mention this because most people think depression is something that happens and you can snap out of it when you realize life isn’t actually all that bad. in some cases, like mine, life actually is that bad and the way out of depression is to fix the problems in life — not to drown them in cake, tobacco and booze but actually fix them by leaving the bad situation and having a better one. sadly this doesn’t seem to be an option until international travel is possible — in my case, international travel to east asia where i’m not yet a citizen. someday, though, i hope.
i have to reflect on a year of disasters. after much fighting with the local healthcare services, who decided my canadian healthcare records were inadmissible in this country and simply ignored them, i was finally given the first dose of the amazing pfizer vaccine against covid19. i was terrified, of course, because my body is an unmitigated disaster but i thought this was the first step on a road out of this country so i could leave the disgusting western world and never return. sadly, that wasn’t the case. i was vaccinated at the beginning of february and within moments of being injected discovered i was one of the infinitesimal number of people who have an allergic reaction to mrna vaccines, meaning i could never receive the second dose. the inept british, of course, have their own far-less-effective vaccine based on outdated technology but i already knew i was allergic to some of its components and that was never an option. i don’t regret my decision to get vaccinated, despite the vigorous bouncing off the floor in shock that resulted. it was the right choice given all possible precautions. it just didn’t work. of course, being severely immunocompromised means no level of vaccination really makes things safe. but i thought it would be better than nothing. having had this reaction to it, though, pretty-much guarantees the vaccine was ineffective and my body simple rejected it meaning i have no protection. i therefore have to rely on the precautions of others to keep me safe. i live in a country where people realistically don’t take precautions about anything — you should see how the locals drive, usually into each other, it appears — especially not health ones. this is reflected in the deplorable life-expectancy and health statistics in the uk, the worst i’ve ever seen and comparable with many countries ravaged by war and famine. if you’ve met the locals, though, you wouldn’t be surprised.
looking at human progress in the last two years, though, i am both amazed and shocked. i am amazed people could work together to develop vaccines. i’m shocked at how many people have decided not to be injected and put others at risk. i’m amazed how much average people all over the world have come together to support each other both virtually and in-person. i’m shocked by the nationalism and prejudice that has caused so much suffering when all of this could have been avoided by simple precautions or stopped in its tracks by immediate government interventions at an early stage. it’s been a clear demonstration of the fact that democracy doesn’t work — which i’ve been saying for twenty years or more and everyone should long since have known but now we have an even-more-obvious demonstration of it, added to the theoretical necessity that it will always result in disaster simply by virtue of the fact that the majority is never right. it’s been a sad year in many ways for humanity.
the world is also frozen and on fire. and we’re not really doing anything about it. we pretend to. but we keep sucking oil out of the ground, burning it and (what the fuck, twentyfirst-century people?) coal. we keep dumping plastic in the ocean as if it’s our personal prerogative to transform salt-water to epoxy through dissolution. and we continue to farm animals for slaughter despite it being brutally unethical and — something people try to ignore but is blatantly-obvious — pumping incalculable quantities of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change and our own demise as a species. remember, earth will recover. life will bounce back. we might just not be here to see it if we keep going this way. there are solutions. they’re not complicated. they’re just unpopular. people are obsessed with the idea of accelerating their own destruction because life is more fun that way. perhaps someday we will learn. i suspect not, though.
i am working on several new books — a collection of original poetry, two collections of translated poetry, a work on woodworking, one on the heart sutra and two novels, one about half-finished about a romance on a train — i know, as someone who never takes trains and generally hates public interactions, this is unusual but trains are fundamental to modern japanese culture and ignoring them isn’t an option, even if you’re not on-board. i try to write at least one blog article a day. and i am working on some new courses to fit the model of individual instruction that is becoming more and more common — i love teaching writing and history more than i can express, though i get less opportunity than ever to do it.
but this isn’t a collection of vague hindsight. what i want to talk about is family. as i will never have children (thank fuck for that) and likely be alone my whole life (no need to pity me — isolation by choice is a wonderful thing), the family i have is my parents. i have a sister but she has a family of her own (with four young children of her own). so it’s me and my parents and we are sadly trapped on different continents. they are thankfully safe and secure at home in canada where infection rates are low and they have space to breathe and be at peace in the home they built (yes, really built, though most people who know them as lifelong academics sometimes find this hard to believe) after many years living in other places to teach.
many of you don’t realize i was adopted as an infant, though. and that’s the key today. when looking at the pending yearly anniversary of my first great escape act (and the only time i’ve ever been in the same room with my biological progenitor, it feels insignificant because a human at birth is no more than an animal without knowledge or culture or thought. no language, no ideas, no memory. we are empty and we aren’t really human yet in any meaningful way.
two months later, however, i was brought into a human family by my parents. i was taught to speak and understand, think and act. their love and teaching turned me into who i am today, an adult member of human society. their love still fuels my days — without it, i would most certainly have died long ago and that’s not anything approximating an exaggeration.
every year, we celebrate the anniversary of that day — we, like most adoptive families, refer to this as “family day”, the day that wasn’t commemorating birth but acceptance and commitment. they made a lifelong commitment to a child. it wasn’t an accident. it wasn’t forced — they spent an entire decade fighting to have the right to take care of an infant and turn that infant into a functional and successful adult. that’s the day when the cake isn’t a lie. they made their decision not in the heat of hormonal passion but cold years of logic. i wasn’t a shock to them. i was desired and anticipated and prepared for in every detail. i’m not sure i was what they expected or quite what they thought they were getting themselves into. but i was what they got and they never seemed to regret it for a moment, even as childhood fears were replaced by the misery of adulthood and its daily torture — if you don’t understand what i mean by this, you may be lucky.
many people think it is different to have children by adoption, that there’s a less-significant bond with the child and the child feels abandoned or somehow not as much a part of the family. that’s flagrant bullshit and the most egregious of fake news. i was chosen, loved and cared for. biology is irrelevant. i love my parents because they loved me and still do. it’s that simple. if you think there’s a limit to human love, you’ve been missing out.
anyway, tomorrow i will be one number older and it doesn’t matter. two months from now, it will have been thirtynine years since my parents gave me a home, family and unequivocal, limitless love that continues today. despite the pain i encounter every day, i am lucky in one way — they decided to care for me. while this may seem exaggerated and trite, that’s really the only message i wanted to leave.
if you’ve been thinking about adopting a child and you truly want to explore how deep love can get, pursue that option. i promise it’s worth it. there’s no penis-play in the world or orgasm-derived fantasy that can compare with choosing to spend a lifetime caring for a child knowing what that involves and not being driven by hormones and lust. adoption is perhaps the most beautiful thing an adult can do for a helpless, unwanted infant. i’m not going to tell you you should have a child — practically speaking, you probably shouldn’t. but if you’re going to, consider and deeply contemplate adoption. you’ll be saving someone’s life and enriching your own. thanks for reading.