The Incompleteness Theorem of Birthdays
This thatched hut, its master returned;
This desolate village, like a foreign country…
The trees are cold, crows circle the moon;
The river is chilly, wild geese cry in the frost.
Shadows now depend on lamplight for life;
But sadness is forgotten, as long as there is wine!
Thank you, Yang Chi, for those words (from Living in the Country at Kou-ch’u in Autumn) for that was me yesterday, when a freezing fog lay on the village and so I stayed tucked into my little house, drinking too much wine, because it was my birthday…
But I digress before I’ve even started on my chosen year of 1978, which was a momentous year for many reasons: David Berkowitz, aka ‘Son of Sam’, was given a life sentence for seven murders in the USA before going on to inspire comics, films, books and songs;
And it was a year of very memorable firsts: Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II – the first non-Italian to be elected to Papal office in 456 years, and the first ever Polish one.
In England, Louise Brown was born – the world’s first ‘test-tube’ baby;
And the Japanese explorer Naomi Uemura reached the North Pole all on his own - if you don’t count the dogs – the first person ever to do so.
And up above them both all, in the heavens, another kind of endurance record was being set, as several Soviet cosmonauts remained in orbit on the Salyut 6 space station for 139 days and 14 hours.
But forget all that – mere trifles! – for this was also the year that brought us such miracles of celluloid as The Deer Hunter (who had heard of Russian roulette, or The Cavatina, before then?) and Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata; close on the heels of these masterpieces came two more films that would soon stand as landmarks for the seventies: the very imitable National Lampoon’s Animal House, and the seminal one-word titled Grease, that boosted the sales of spray-on latex jumpsuits by about four and a half billion, which, by chance, was the approximate population of the world at the time.
All time-lines are by necessity incomplete, yet we cannot leave 1978 without marking the passing of Kurt Gödel, inventor of the Incompleteness Theorem, which dragged the Liar’s Paradox into the 20th century, and squeezed it until it screamed…