At this time of year many of us review what happened over time. I suppose the Christmas letter, round robin, is the classic example of many people’s summing up of the year. Commonly people tell of successes and leave out the struggles. Modesty veils a celebrating of this or that.
What’s wrong with that?
It’s right to celebrate and sometimes to be proud!
Why shouldn’t we?
I happen to like the work of T S Eliot. Some words strike home, ‘History may be servitude, History, may be freedom. See how they vanish, the faces and places, with the self which as it could, love them to become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.’ A few lines further on he wrote, ‘A people without history is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern of timeless moments’
I guess, we bring all of what we are to the brink of the new, to the next moment that has not yet been formed. The reality is that unless we look at ourselves, the context in which we find ourselves, what’s gone before and that straining to reach forward we run the risk of being entrenched, trapped in, condemned to repeat patterns. This is not what T S Eliot saw as people being redeemed, saved from an endless pattern of timeless moments, from repeating cycles.
We need to do those things: look at ourselves, look at our context (our lives), the pattern of our experience and the new we would seek. Of course, none of this is new. From as long ago as the 7th century BC, we read of two brothers, Epimetheus whose name means ‘hindsight’ and Prometheus, with a name meaning ‘foresight’. Pandora made famous by her box married Epimetheus rather than Prometheus. On opening the box, all the ills of the world flew out.
It seems to me that many of us are wedded to hindsight, to ‘being entrenched, trapped in, condemned to repeating patterns’ from our own histories, the stories we tell. I see this a lot.
Many times, I have seen (in myself as much as others) how people maintain patterns, are in servitude to their history.
I would prefer to see people find new patterns in their history through which to find freedom, the daring to do things differently.
Let me share a personal example. Numerous times, this past year, I’ve found myself explaining that throughout my forty-year career, I’ve only really ever done one job. That job has involved (metaphorically) a blank piece of paper and a pen. Each role I’ve held has involved creating something new. Reading this, you might suppose I write of the kind of false modesty in the writing of a Christmas letter. That’s not my intention. I’m just recounting the pattern of my own life. I imagine anyone reading this can go through an exercise, looking at a pattern in their own life.
Of course, these patterns can be very bad indeed! They may be driven by Pandora’s ills of the world. They may be only understood with reference to Epimetheus’ ‘hindsight’.
Redemption may be required. For this Prometheus’ ‘foresight’ is needed. And something else. The something else is a gift for the new year.
For what it is worth, might I invite you to consider the patterns in your own life that bring you to this point, the brink of the new and to remember some words T S Eliot borrows from another writer, Mother Julian of Norwich, ‘All shall be well. All many of thing shall be well’.
Written by Michael Croft
December 24, 2021