Monday, November 23, 2015

DB Cooper Day

Today is my birthday but the celebration is postponed until tomorrow.  It started as a compromise but it became something a little more serious.

My bride likes to celebrate birthdays and for the first twelve years of marriage she was content to make sure that I celebrated her's, and then the children's.  No harm there, all good fun.

As the kids got a little older, it wasn't enough to celebrate four birthdays however, she tried to rope me into the whole ordeal.  It was important for the kids, she thought, to learn to give through marking my birthday.

I don't want my birthday celebrated and I have to ask you, dear reader, to trust me when I say that it is not because I have a fear of growing older or having my life slip away unawares.  It just don't like arbitrary celebrations.

Today is the anniversary of my birth and, though I am an adult, there is cake a presents.  For what?  To commemorate the fact that I have not died yet?  What if I'd spent the last year lying in bed, eating Oreo cookies, and pleasuring myself?  Would we still celebrate that?

They love me.  I get it.  Can't we all just shut off the lights when we leave the house or close your bedroom door so the rescue terrier isn't tempted to turn your stuffed animal into his chew toy?

Add Facebook to the mix and I have maybe hundreds of people, prompted by algorithm to wish me a happy born day.  People I have not seen in twenty-five years or more wishing me a happy birthday.  Yes, their intentions are innocent.  They are, each and every one of them, more generous human beings than I.

There is no problem, really, but I have as much right to my curmudgeonly ways as everyone else has to their thoughtless traditions.  I merely need to remind myself, "There is no why" and move on.

When the wife and children have conspired together, one is compelled.  How does one react when faced with a meaningless exercise when participation is outside of one's own control?  Fill it with meaning.

Consequently, part of my annual "spiritual" practice has been the celebration of D.B. Cooper Day.

For those of you too young or too preoccupied to remember, DB Cooper was/is a criminal.  There is no legal excuse for his actions but, speaking of morals, his error was much smaller.  We he did he accomplished with a degree of excellence that few humans can ever hope to attain in their own vocations.  Despite his crime, this is what makes him worthy of reflection every November 24th.

The brief version from Wikipedia:

D. B. Cooper is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in the airspace between Portland, Oregon, and SeattleWashington, on November 24, 1971, extorted$200,000 in ransom (equivalent to $1,170,000 in 2015), and parachuted to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and an ongoing FBI investigation, the perpetrator has never been located or positively identified. The case remains the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history.[1][2][3]

The suspect purchased his airline ticket using the alias Dan Cooper, but because of a [1][4] The discovery of a small cache of ransom bills in 1980 triggered renewed interest but ultimately only deepened the mystery, and the great majority of the ransom remains unrecovered.
news media miscommunication he became known in popular lore as "D. B. Cooper". Hundreds of leads have been pursued in the ensuing years, but no conclusive evidence has ever surfaced regarding Cooper's true identity or whereabouts. Numerous theories of widely varying plausibility have been proposed by experts, reporters, and amateur enthusiasts.
While FBI investigators have stated from the beginning that Cooper probably did not survive his risky jump,[5] the agency maintains an active case file—which has grown to more than 60 volumes[6]—and continues to solicit creative ideas and new leads from the public. "Maybe a hydrologist can use the latest technology to trace the $5,800 in ransom money found in 1980 to where Cooper landed upstream," suggested Special Agent Larry Carr, leader of the investigation team since 2006. "Or maybe someone just remembers that odd uncle."[5]
As for me, I hope we never see Ol' D.B. Cooper again.

Here are the important parts.
  • No one was ever put at risk except Cooper himself.  There was no real bomb.  He did not hit or abuse anyone.  He did what he felt he needed to do, and he was a gentleman about it.
  • He kept his mouth shut.  Maybe this is because he died in the jump, but I am inclined to think he lived at least a bit longer.  As coach said about sportsmanship, "Win like it happens everyday."
  • He was excellent.  His plan shows creativity and originality.  He was fit.  He was smart.  He did what he knew with professionalism and style.  He stuck it to the man without hurting a soul.

Could we all do what we believe needs to be done with such intelligence, daring, and, yes, virtue?  We should all try to be as excellent as Mr. D.B. Cooper.

Does it matter that his excellence was demonstrated through the breaking of the law?  Through stealing money from an airliner?  Through transgressing the property rights of Northwest Orient Airlines?

Not to me.  If you think you can become a better human being without transgressing some social norms, I'd wonder if you've put much critical thought into what it means to be an excellent human being and the limits of culture and civilization.  An excellent racehorse is not like every other race horse.  An excellent hunter is not like every other hunter.  An excellent homo sapiens is not just like every other homo sapiens.  Just don't put anyone else at risk in the process.

So on the 24th of every year, ,my family celebrates D.B. Cooper Day.  The month before the 24th of November is spent reflection upon what disciplines I might undertake in the next twelve months that would make me a more excellent human being, and only rarely things that I want to accomplish by those disciplines.  Embracing disciplines are within my grasp.  Knowing what will come out of them is not.  I write the goals down in a notebook, and tell no one.

The purpose of keeping my goals a secret is because it avoids the tenancy to seek praise for good intentions.  Don't praise me for committing to loose fifty pounds, but you might notice that I do not use the elevator on even numbered months, eat a simpler diet, and maybe have lost thirty.

Don't praise me for taking an aggressive stance toward improving my own mental health, but a careful observer might notice that I seem happier and more relaxed since I started journaling through Epictetus' Discourses or Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.

Being honest, no one watches a man in his mid-forties that closely so most of the goals take place in blissful secrecy.  I've yet to decide a hard rule about sharing the discipline successess or failures after the year has passed.  Perhaps with friend who knows me well enough?  I've got one or two of those.

Yes, and the wife makes a cake for D.B. Cooper Day and this year it will have 42 candles on it.  The children will "Happy Birthday" (though soon maybe we can replace that with the DB Cooper song below... maybe I should learn the chords) but at least the celebration comes with some reflection and expectations for the months to come.  If one is going to bother being alive another year, might as well make good use of that year.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment