“Happy Octave-Day to You…”

I’m going to a double-birthday party today.  That is, two little girls of my acquaintance — cousins to each other — share the same birthday, and the party today is a combination affair put on to celebrate both.

A birthday, as we all know, is that occasion when good old Planet Earth — the orb which we’re all sitting on, standing on, lying down upon, or temporarily suspended above, depending on our individual circumstances — has made its way back to the same exact spot in its orbit around the Sun that it occupied when the birthday celebrant was born.  It occurred to me when I got up this morning that a birthday is, in effect, sort of like the moment in time when one of us becomes a higher octave version of ourselves…

Behold: the octave!
Behold: the octave!

I tend to see existence in musical terms kind of frequently, and I’ve made reference to this viewpoint in previous posts on occasion.  And why not?  Music is sound, and sound is vibration, and our very existence would seem to be impossible without vibration.  And speaking as a total non-physicist (whose views here may therefore be regarded as being as much fancy as verifiable fact), my own view of the Universe says that everything would seem to be moving on some level, which therefore indicates that everything is also “playing” one or more musical notes.  Maybe we humans with our limited perceptions can’t discern all of these notes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.  For instance, ten years ago, NASA published findings about how a supermassive black hole in the constellation of Perseus emits the deepest “note” we’ve ever detected by any object in the Universe — this note is a B-flat, 57 octaves below our familiar middle-C, with a frequency “over a million billion times deeper than the limits of human hearing.”  On the one hand, this sound is mind-bogglingly far-flung from sounds that we perceive on a constant basis, and yet on the other hand…a B-flat is in some ways still a B-flat, and bears certain undeniable equivalency to the several versions of B-flat that we hear all the time…

Anyway, for those not hip to the nature of the octave, it’s essentially an interval between two notes that’s characterized by the higher note being exactly double the frequency of the lower note.  As the graphic above shows, if you start out by sounding a “C” note, and then you make your way upwards, you’ll eventually reach the next higher “C” note.  For many of us, the human ear reacts to octaves in an odd way, understanding that the two notes are “different” — one is higher in pitch than the other — but also being sort of fooled into perceiving them as “the same,” as well.  If you were to play both of those “C” notes together, for many of us (and even for various animal species), they’d sound like a case of perfect and pleasing equivalency.

As an analogy, consider the days of the week…  Today is Saturday as I write this.  As the coming week progresses, we’ll cycle through Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…and then we’ll arrive at another Saturday.  It won’t be today, the Saturday we’re experiencing right now — we humans aren’t able to circle back in time to moments we’ve already lived through, as our experience of real time is linear and unidirectional (i.e., we move relentlessly onward from the past to the future, always, with no doubling back or jumping around) — but it will be a Saturday, “the same” in terms of its position within the week of days that houses it.  It will be preceded by its Friday and followed by its Sunday.  It’s sort of like a chronological example of an octave…

Each new Saturday is a brand new, totally unique day...but it's also "equivalent" to every other Saturday in some respects...
Each new Saturday is a brand new, totally unique day…but it’s also “equivalent” to every other Saturday in some respects…

The days of the year function in much the same way.  So if those two little girls who enjoyed their birthdays yesterday on July 19th (the party is today, the 20th, due to scheduling concerns, but their actual birthday was yesterday…), it could be said that the versions of them that existed yesterday were versions one single year-octave “later than” or “above” the versions of them that had existed exactly one year before, on the previous July 19th.  They’ve matured onward into the next higher octave versions of themselves.

In my mind, I can picture them — or any of us — climbing a spiral staircase upward through time, and each year when we enjoy a birthday, we find ourselves directly above last year’s version of ourselves.  If we could bend over the railing and look down, we’d see that one-year-younger version of ourselves, maybe looking up and waving at us…and if we could look up, we might even see next year’s versions, a tad older, hopefully a bit wiser, smiling down upon us from what will be our next octave-position…

The staircase of Time: look directly below or directly above, and wish your corresponding octave-self a Happy Birthday!
The staircase of Time: look directly below or directly above, and wish your corresponding octave-self a Happy Birthday!

So I’m off to celebrate new octave-hood with a pair of adorable little girls and their families and friends…and wishing you all a happy Saturday, whether it’s your birthday-octave or not!

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