My mother was born on this day in 1922. I remember sitting up with her in her later years, as she was startled and frightened anew with each childish explosion in the neighborhood, and calming her with my voice as she tried to understand what was happening. It was heartbreaking, just as it’s heartbreaking to think that flags and smoke and simulated war sounds are seen as an expression of freedom. For me, the simple truth that even one person, or one animal, might suffer by such a display, is enough to dispense with it altogether. But it runs much deeper than that. Much deeper. Freedom is not a taunting pose or demonstration of power. It is not the drawing of a line one dares others not to cross. It is not something one achieves at the expense of others more vulnerable. It is not a feeble shower of sparks against an infinitely immense night sky. Quite simply, freedom does not, and cannot, exist without love. And how does one express that love? By living it, of course. By not placing oneself at the center of the universe and assuming all else revolves around him. By thinking of others. By passing through one’s time on this earth as lightly and consciously and gratefully as possible. By — but, enough. I’ve said too much already. Life is beautiful just as it is. I love you. Happy Birthday.