1 down, 51 to go

As arbitrary as year changes often are, I definitely prefer the end of week 1 in January to the end of week 52 in December. Gone are the silly pressures about what to do to stay up till midnight – and beyond – on some prescribed day (rebels that we are, we simply ignored this requirement and went to bed, as usual, way before then). Gone are the silly forebodings about how to be “better” in the new year, and how to capitalise on the last remnants of badness before the clock strikes 12.

(Hickory dickory dock. Confession: In acknowledgment of the excellent service provided to me by my faithful liver in my lifetime, I did order a wagon for the new year. But I forgot to order one that doesn’t stock whisky.)

Yes, by the end of week 1 in January, most of the silliness has dissipated and people are either a) back at work, being conscientious, b) back at work and hating every second of it, c) cleverly on holiday, or d) none or all of the above. In short, life is back to normal.

For me, that includes the absence of Zuma the frog, whose ball-blasting revenge gave me excellent opportunity to develop my hand-eye-colour coordination, and to write off about a week’s worth of potentially productive hours. I used to be embarrassed by my addiction, but I’m better now.

I’ve instead managed to do a bunch of less fun but probably more important things, like renewing my residence permit at the god-awful Cape Town branch of Home Affairs. Enough said. I’ve also been able to catch up on some lond-overdue reading, like David Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been (The Harm of Coming Into Existence).

The title and subtitle do well to summarise the fact that this is not a happy book, and it has clearly already upset a number of people (this review, aptly titled “Whose miserabilist of them all”, is quite funny, while this one fuelled a response from Benatar himself). But it is refreshing to read something deeply provocative and counterintuitive (to use one of Benatar’s own favourite adjectives) by someone who is clearly intelligent, and not a (complete) nutter. I would challenge anyone who is considering childbirth to read it, and to think very carefully about their choices.

The one thing I haven’t been able to stop thinking about is the completely accidental and/or random nature of conception. I’m not talking about the accident of two strangers coming together, but the one of one particular sperm penetrating one particular egg to produce one particular zygote (yes, you were one too, Google it). Your parents could have had sex three times a night for seven nights in a row around the time you were conceived, but you have no way of knowing which seconds of those steamy (or not) encounters had the right zygotic groove.

That’s me and my lovely sister, whose name rhymes with vanilla. Now just imagine: if I had been conceived the night before, or after, or not exactly when I was (in which case I wouldn’t have been conceived) , and the same with my sister, Signe and Pernille nee Hansen might look like this:

Or like this!

But then we would have to be called Søren and Hans. (Hans Hansen. Now that would be cruel.)

Better give it up and be thankful for what you(‘ve) got.