In the Meantime,
I think it was Emerson who observed that because eternity was too much for mortal minds to comprehend, God mercifully divided it into days and years. It is before dawn on December 21, 2020 as I write these few thoughts and social media is filled with comments about the annus horribilis about to end and hope that 2021 will be better.
Human years, the ones we denominate with numbers, are like backyard fences. They are purely human divisions. The land they divide does not know or care such fences exist. On my daily walks I see birds of all kinds who have no idea what day it is or that the pond they surround is part of a golf course. 2020 is meaningless to the crows and the yucca, our plagues invisible to them.
This I find comforting. Much as I feel a profound peace in nature because it reminds me of how small I am, the same applies to this thing we call civilization. As mighty as we are on the globe, we humans are not in charge. Ozymandias speaks not only to individual pretenders to power, it speaks to human hubris overall.
What then does New Year mean? Not much in the really big picture, but it does matter in how we treat one another. We look back and assess. New years mean forgiveness, as it were. January 1, 2021 is not encumbered by December 31, 2020, as it were. The 2021 calendar is full of blank days to be filled. How shall we fill them?
Years are moral measures, then, not milestones through life. As my rabbi often says when observing those having anniversaries and birthdays, quoting Adlai Stevenson, “it is not the years in your life, but the life in your years that count.” Each day affords a fresh moment to choose life, and each year a time to reflect on how often we made good on that challenge. I hope to add a few more days I chose life. You? – FW –