If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Tuesday 1 January 2013
Read gnomica 1-200 here!
Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (25 May 1803 – 27 Apr 1882)
If the final posting of the year that just died was kind of a downer, let me begin the birth of the new with a thought that can only be seen as an upper. Thus, this year every day, starting with this day, is going to be better than the day before.
And that thought makes me ask myself: can I control what today is going to be? And, if not, how can I guarantee such an extravagant vow to myself? It is true – I am certainly not in anything close to control over what happens on a given day, but it is equally certain that I am in control over how I react to – how I deal with — what happens on each day of the year. And my reaction to that day is in effect infinitely malleable.
Yes, it is easy for me to say that today when 1 January begins bathed in a glorious sunshine that makes the snow-covered fields outside my window incandescent in their hopeful brilliance – even if it is only 7°. What if the day begins (as it surely will at some point down the path of 2013) in a dark, brooding overcast sky pointing to more snow and promising cold that is even more bitter?
I am not too sophisticated to contemn the pious nostrums my grandmother would trot out for my brother and me in the very dark (metaphorically as well as literally) days of January winters in the Stockholm area during WWII — remember: it is light there then for about a four-hour window, from about ten in the morning to two in the afternoon. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself,” she would say cheerfully as she stoked the kitchen stove with the wood she and my grandfather (a retired doctor) had gathered on those days when it did not snow, “think of the children in Norway! At least you have something to eat!” I can still hear her quiet voice quite distinctly, and I can still see the concern furrowed on her face that even her smile could not hide. “And don’t forget the freezing children in Russia,” she would add as another piece went into the stove.
It may perhaps seem almost histrionic on my part, in a very narcissistic sense, this morning of 1 January 2013 to contemplate such matters with such ‘naïveté’ while I sit here, fed, warm, not worried that wood for heating might run out or what dreadful ‘food’ — if any – will be available later to stem the hunger starting in my stomach. But I have not forgotten and will never forget those days, for any day this year – including today — must bear comparison to that hopeless time. And, in the here-and-now, I try to imagine what I do not have to endure that may well be happening in some boiling village in northern Mali or a mountain redoubt somewhere in freezing Afghanistan.
My day simply cannot be that bad!
I would like to think that if some days this year do not start out or go or end up as I might have wished, even if through no direct doing of my own, but just because, then, from comparison with other times and other climes, I can still come to an appreciative recognition of everything that makes the day far from as terrible as my self-pitying ingratitude conjures it up to be – and heed the great transcendentalist!
Today I will be kept warm, and tonight I will have dinner – and it will be a good and tasty one, of my own choosing.
Well, end of homily!
But I believe it truly is – at least for me, here at the start of 2013 — a not unreasonable way to think about the year’s coming uncertainties in a random world. And on that note I wish you and yours a
Happy New Year