The year is winding down. Any minute now, if it hasn't begun already, we will be seeing and hearing and reading retrospectives of 2013. We begin to think of things we might have done better, and make lists of things we want to try in the year ahead. In the United States there will be much focus on New Year's Eve and the ball dropping in Times Square. Christmas comes, and passes, and then we are moving towards the end.
But that isn't the only way to look at it.
In the Christian tradition, the year begins with Advent. So Christmas marks the beginning of a journey, not an end. It's a very different world view--we are not winding down; we are only at the start. It is completely in line with Advent being a time of contemplation and preparation. Pack your bags, get your maps, the journey begins anew.
I must admit that our societal observance of the calendar year usually leaves me feeling flattened after Christmas, not refreshed and ready to undertake great journeys. It's an example of cognitive dissonance: how do I perceive the passage of time? How do I balance conflicting views of beginnings and ends?
But wait, there's more.
What about Solstice? What about the most basic view of the light and darkness, whose observance predates Church years and calendar years? Some cursory research shows that for cultures who observed a solar calendar (as opposed to lunar) the Winter Solstice was the beginning of the new year. This, too, makes sense--the days grow colder, darker, shorter until that moment in which everything begins to lean towards Spring and rebirth. Not a big bang in Times Square but a tiny sliver of light that carries with it the hope of new life.
Life is laid out before us without a map. How we mark and measure it is such a human construct. On Christmas Day my husband and daughter watched the Dr. Who Christmas episode. What a classic example of a television show which has created a rich and complicated mythology. It has its own calendar, its own rituals, its own rites of passage. And in the middle of my crazy contemplation of beginnings and ends, there was one Doctor saying goodbye to it all and a new one leaping into being through regeneration. Perfect timing.
We want to measure and label. We want to put a mark on the map and say, "you are here." But with that comes such a push to think, "what comes next, what comes next, what comes next?" Is it New Year's Eve, or the Super Bowl? Valentines Day, Spring Training? The first drinks outside at the Cactus Patio Lounge or your own Tiki Zone at home? The 4th of July? The Longfellow parade?
I want to be still. I want the ability to enjoy today with all of my being, instead of throwing away my life with both hands. And so I need to chose, and practice, how I want to travel through time. Not chasing time, trying to catch up, nor being chased by it, running in fear, but being firmly planted within it. Finding the present.
A New Year's resolution? Maybe.