Saturday, 23 March 2013

L Plates

Today is my birthday; it is also the day when cities around the globe are celebrating Earth Hour at 8.30pm.  The movement has become international since its inaugural event in Sydney in 2007.  Earth Hour, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, is an annual event aimed at uniting support for the environment and spreading awareness of  energy usage.  It is seen as a means of expressing a desire for a sustainable and better future for all.  If you want to know more click on  or to see the lights going out in cities around the world try  
How wonderful to know that my special day will involve candles being lit across the globe.

I must confess to waking this morning and thinking “Oh L” – not just because it was 5.30 am (and I needed to get up to drive across England, through vile snow, sleet and strong winds, to fetch my youngest son), but also because today is a milestone birthday for me.  L is the Roman numeral for fifty.  I have had a wonderful half century and I am really looking forward to the years to come.  There is some truth in Confucius' words in the The Analects (or Lun-yii 論語, a slim anthology of memorable epigrams defining the moral code by which Confucius felt every person should live): 

“At 15, I set my heart on learning.  At 30 I know where I stand (my character has been formed). At 40, I have no more doubts, at 50, I know the will of Heaven, at 60 my ears are attuned (i.e. my moral sense is well-developed), at 70, I follow my heart’s desire without crossing the line (without breaking moral principles).” 

Confucius was appointed Minister of Public Security in his home state at the age of 50.  His words “know the will of Heaven” therefore can be interpreted to mean that he now knows the correct way to govern or manage, in accordance with Heaven’s mandate.  However, I suspect that it is broader that that and implies that he knows who he is, is comfortable with his personal values and goals and is able to behave and approach life with confidence.  I can concur with that - I know who I am and what I view as morally right or wrong.  It does not mean that I can and will stop learning, it is simply that I now have a firm foundation on which to ground my thinking and future growth.
Oak tree roots provide a strong foundation and stretch as far below as the tree stands above ground
As I drove on my quinquagenary (an over lengthy way of saying my 50th anniversary!), I contemplated the new number in my life.  In many ways it is an important one.  Here are some facts associated with fifty:

  • mathematically 50 is significant and a number that brains better and faster than mine like to play with.  It is a Harshad number - so it is divisible by the sums of its digits when written in that base.
  • "Harshad" comes from the Sanskrit "Harsa" (meaning Joy) and "Da" (To Give) - so Harshad translates as joy-giver, which doubtles it is for many mathematicians.  As an aside, you might like to know that there are 50 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet.
  • I do like the symmetry of the fact that   1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 + 9 + 7 + 5 + 3 + 1 = 50 and that 50 is the sum of three consecutive squares: 50=(3x3)+(4x4)+(5x5)
  • Did you know that the moon is 50 times smaller than the earth?
  • In the year 50AD the Romans founded Londinium in Britain (and I enjoy living in London today)
  • I pondered the power of fifty as a compelling word in a title, we often have books and programmes about " The Top 50..." and it even wields its power in the name of the book "50 Shades of Grey" – the bonk-buster by EL James, that seemed to hit an erotic chord with so many in 2011 (I suspect that it could as easily be a description of the majority of its readers’ lingerie drawer contents)

  • There is the 50 Moves rule in Chess, that enables a draw
  • The Chinese have long venerated the number and there are fifty sticks, all the same length, that are used in the consultation of the I Ching.  Perhaps I should symbolically cast a reading for my future on this day as doubless to do so would be auspicious!
  • The chemical element Tin has an atomic number of 50 (50 protons and 50 electrons).  Tin is one of the Seven Metals of the Alchemists – famous for trying to turn metal into gold.
An Alchemist in his Workshop,” by David Teniers II, depicts alchemy in the 17th century
  • 50 has strong associations with gold (am I a golden oldie?) – a golden anniversary is the celebration of 50 years and Jason had 50 Argonauts with him when he went on a quest across the Black Sea in search of the Golden Fleece - a topic I covered in a former post
So many things to ponder in relation to the number 50 and doubtless there are so many other facts I have forgotten, never knew and have yet to learn.

So, returning to Confucius, his Analects are based on the belief that that life should be lived in an ethical manner (he saw politics as an extension of morals - an approach that seems to have been lost by some politicians and civil servants in the corridors of Whitehall, Brussels and Washington) and he founded his principles on the importance of wisdom, self-knowledge, courage and love of one's fellow man.  He argued that virtue should be every individual's supreme goal.  Earth Day is based on a desire for a better future for ourselves and those to come; I am sure Confucius would have approved of the concept and the actions - to be in the dark for a while as a means of gaining longer-lasting light and life.

A bit like attaining knowledge...

So, to L with it – I will never be too old to Learn…

and there is so much more to life than meets the eye.


  1. Happy Earth Hour~ =)

    Regards, (A Growing Teenager Diary)

  2. Happy Birthday, Kate! Another en-light-ening piece, and I particularly like the Confucious quote. Certainly, I've set my heart on learning throughout my life, so is that a definition of staying 'young at heart'?

  3. Hope you had a happy birthday yesterday Kate... welcome to the world of 50 and remember it is far better to act your shoe size than your age!!
    Big hugs Clare Cork xxxxx

  4. I really enjoyed this, and wish I'd thought of investigating 40 like this last year. And I love the bit about lingerie drawers :-) A belated Happy Birthday - hope you enjoyed the candles!

  5. I can believe it from your wisdom but not your photo - I'd have said 40 was closer!

    Hope you had a fab day :)