I guess this is not your typical beginning of year blog post. You know the the sort I am thinking of, where I talk about all the wonderful things that I will do in the coming twelve months. A kind of public statement about my New Year’s resolutions, one of which it seems, must be to commit to write here with a certain frequency.
But just because this is the first time I sit down to write since before Christmas does not mandate that I should write with such cheery optimism. And that’s not because I am full of gloom about what 2012 holds, but maybe I have a more circumspect character not easily given to grand public declarations. Like many I find it easier to express my self in considered words and letters refined through a pen and paper onto the screen and posted online, than in the instant unprepared communication so often foisted upon me. It means that I am always thinking that there is more to any situation, any dilemma, any quandary awaiting on the path ahead.
I began 2011 with two hunches in the back of my mind about things that might happen during the year. Neither of them did. I also decided mid way through January that I’d try and read 100 books during the year, and I lost the list I’d been keeping at the beginning of November. By my reckoning I probably fell just a few books shot. And I was surprisingly okay about that. Normally I would put myself under a stupid and irrational pressure to meet an arbitrary target no one else cared about. But rather belatedly I decided that if all I was doing was reading to get through books then I was colossally missing the point.
So I don’t really begin this year with any resolutions or predictions. I have no labelled goals to lose weight, take up exercise, achieve some incredible feat or master a new art. Nor am I going to tie myself to writing any more than I know I should, which is often and without fear. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to set myself up for failure. Maybe I am afraid of voicing my hopes and dreams aloud in case the scoffers turn and sneer at my dreams. Or in case my hopes are not mine alone to dream of.
Now that’s what this is not about, what I’m not doing at this commencement of the annual cycle of days and weeks and months that roll across the calender with remarkable speed and tell us that time has passed while we are otherwise engaged. But maybe it is also where this starts, the space between out hopes and fears, the thing that holds us back from throwing everything we have toward a goal, and the very thing that makes us know that we must.
Christmas television has a certain form and order that I think we miss, the very best of the scheduling occurs when they think you’re not looking. So when everyone else was out enjoying a New Year’s day stroll I was closeted safely inside away from the rain watching Prince Caspain from the Narnia series. And at the end there’s something added in from the book, my sister and other Narian purists would dissent but for me it made the film just that little bit more special. Susan and Peter are told they will not return to Narnia, and Lucy looks heartbroken, because in some little way Narnia has always been a little more special to her than all the rest, she discovered it, saw Aslan where the others didn’t, she was the one who held the faith when the others faltered. But what Aslan said in explanation was profound. They had learnt what they would from Narnia, it was time they returned to the world they knew as their home, to live out the lessons.
Narnia fans will know that it didn’t quite work out that way. Lucy had a crisis of faith of her very own in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and maybe Susan had not learnt quite enough of Narnia to prevent the vices of make-up and the like taking their toll. In the end she chose the world she lived in over the other world she knew lay just beyond, and sometimes broke into her own.
We do not have to be living in a special world to experience our own crises of belief. Nor do we have to be abandoned back in our own for the graft of life to hit us hard. All of the boys and girls who find their way into Narnia have their own struggles, from Edmund and his choice for more Turkish delight, to Peter refusing to believe Lucy, to Susan and her rebellion back at home, to Lucy in the Magician’s House, wishing she was the one in Susan’s place. So far away from that time on the hill top when her eye’s filled with sadness that her sister would not return. Now she was despising the gift that she had been given, wishing that she could swap her journey for another. Wanting a life that was not her own.
How often is that the case. How often do we want a life that is not our own, look with envy at others for the path they walk, the world they live in, the people they love, and the people who love them? With what incredible frequency do we despise the gifts and opportunities that we have been given, the place we are in, or the people we are around.
I’ve started 2012 with two books, one has made me angry and the other nostalgic. One, ‘Getting Away With It’ by Dave Boniface pays homage to a place I was and people I have known over the past fifteen years. It’s the wonderfully creative writings of a man who has criss-crossed the world and made his way in and out of a couple of tight spots. Not sure I quite make it into the book but I recognise the events and people now told in hindsight showing with a long lens some of the incredible things that went on just a few years ago.
The other, the one that got me angry, that’s ‘Mugabe and the White African‘ and it is the tale of people fighting for their land, fighting for justice, standing up against a tyrant who will do anything to enforce his will and suppress dissent. It makes me want to jump out of my seat and do something. The two work together, one tells tales of the past and the other provokes me for the future. Maybe that’s how we should start this year.
Know where we come from. Know what God has done. And have an idea what gets you angry, what you know is wrong and what needs fixing. Because if we have not learnt the lessons from where we have been how will we make it count when we return to the world of the present with all it various charms and vices.