Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bruce Springsteen Is Older Than China

Only real aficionados (read...me!) would actually know that, on September 23rd, Bruce Springsteen turned sixty years old. Sixty years is certainly a big milestone for all of us, including a rock star who hangs off microphones and slides across the stage on his knees.

But what about for a country? Why, on the occasion of its sixtieth birthday, would a country close some of its most important historical landmarks and essentially lock down its capital city? Why would a country carry out a carefully scripted parade that showcases its culture and military might?

(By the way, no preparation can be considered too small to be overlooked on an occasion this grand. Take raising pigeons, one of the favorite pastimes of middle-aged and older men in Beijing. The ubiquitous flocks that are released for exercise over the city's hutongs have been grounded for the duration of the National Day festivities. As one Beijing resident put it, “I don’t know what kind of stuff you have in New York. But people could strap all sorts of minibombs to pigeon legs.”)

A part of the answer perhaps has to do with the Chinese zodiac. (I have also heard that sixty years is especially significant because the number six is considered lucky in China. And there is the fact of the matter that China is wealthier and more powerful than ever, so it's a particularly good time to show off!) As we all know, there are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, each symbolizing a single calendar year. (Desi and I are sheep, Julie is a pig, Z is an ox.)

It is much less well known that there are also five elements in the Chinese zodiac--wood, fire Earth, metal, and water. Each of these elements corresponds to particular two-year periods. Currently, we are in the midst of the second year of a two-year Earth cycle. So anyone born between January 26, 2009 and February 13, 2010 will be an ox who has Earth as his/her element.

Put all of this together and you are left with an overall sixty year calendar. Each one of us is placed into this calendar by the combination of our animal and element signs. (Actually, there is much more to it than that...look it up!)

So congratulations, China, for making it through your first full cycle of the zodiac!

This cycle, of course, was kicked off on October 1, 1949, when Mao Zedong stood at the rostrum at Tian'anmen and proclaimed the birth of the People's Republic of China. At that moment, seven thousand miles away, Bruce Springsteen was eight days old...

~Steve

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