Looking Back, Looking Forward, and Taking Stock for the New Year
By Ken K. Gourdin
Daniel Peterson writes in the January 1 Deseret News (see here, last accessed January 1, 2015 – http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865618763/New-year-a-time-for-looking-both-backward-and-forward.html?pg=all):
The division between calendar years is only traditional and a human convention, much like the boundaries between states. But the practice of reflecting upon our past and of resolving to act better in the future is a good one at any time – on the first of January no less than at baptism and every week during worship services – and we should do it often.
It’s a pity that, all too frequently, many people begin the New Year with overindulgence and in a chemically induced haze. If the Romans were right, that the beginning of a year is an indicator or omen for what will follow, such practices are ill-considered, and perhaps even (literally) ominous.
This season is a time for fun, of course, and for family and friends. But it should also be an occasion for serious reflection, for taking stock and for determining to move forward during the coming year.
Here is Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s homage to the hope for (and hoped-for) change that always accompanies this time of year:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
I like Tennyson’s themes: new beginnings; not expending inordinate amounts of time and emotion on useless regrets, and the promise of happiness to come; the promise of being reunited with those who have gone beyond the veil; eschewing falsity for truth; bridging the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”; seeking and obtaining appropriate redress for wrongs; eschewing strife between opposing parties; forsaking “party strife” for “nobler forms of life” with “sweeter manners” and “purer laws” (and strife not being any more venerable simply because it is so long standing as to be “ancient”); disputing the notion that one’s worth is in any way determined by where, or to whom, one is born; who wouldn’t want a better year, free of “want,” of “care,” and of “sin”?; as much as Tennyson’s times were “faithless” and “cold,” times seem to be all the more so today; love of truth, and right, and good; eschewing lust for gold, eschewing war in favor of peace; and a reminder that often, freedom requires valiance – and vigilance.
* * *
Here’s a brief meditation of my own regarding the passage of time:
Another year has come and gone; time is simply flying.
It goes, and goes, and, to slow it down, all I can do is keep trying.
I try as I can to keep yesterday straight from today and tomorrow,
And all the meanwhile, I’m just looking for time: looking for time to borrow.
But time cannot be sold, nor bought, nor begged, nor borrowed, nor any such thing;
For day by day, you trade your today for whatever tomorrow will bring.
“Was it a fair trade?” I ask myself as I drift off to sleep every night.
By the time I decide, tomorrow is here, and today has just vanished from sight.
The moral I’ve learned from the Sage Father Time is simply this, my dear friends:
Use what he gives you wisely and well; because, ere you know it, it ends!
Indeed, we no not when, nor how, our own end will come: soon or late, by accident or disease, under circumstances tragic or tranquil. The only thing we can do, in the immortal words of the great philosopher, Col. Sherman T. Potter of M*A*S*H fame, is “hit what’s pitched.”
Best to you and yours for a successful, safe, and prosperous new year.