I have heard it said that the events which change us most significantly do not come roaring at us like lions, but come to us softly, like doves. What was it Walter Cronkite used to say as he ended his newscasts? “What kind of day was it?” He would ask, and answer, “It was day like all days.” I would add, it was a year not unlike all years: with an occasional trumpet blast from a mountain-top, perhaps some muffled moans from darkened valleys, railing in fury at the uncaring cosmos or humbly offering a prayer of thanksgiving.
Days, like years, are arbitrary markings. January first neither marks the beginning of a new era nor the beginning of new lives. It was a year like all years. We do not appear on the doorstep of a new year or even of a new age empty-handed. We stand here laden with the baggage of our history on our backs. What we find in this time to which we have traveled will not be all that different from the times and places we have left.
One should not expect too much of January. The significant events of the wider world in which we live and of the smaller sphere in which we live, and move and have our being are worthy of note–indeed, they are inescapable. They will happen, and they will happen to us, perhaps regardless of what we do or do not do. But as time passes, these pillars and posts of existence can be seen to be not the whole of life. They merely stand out in shadowy shapes assuming importance as we peer back through our murky history. Most of our lives are lived, not on the dizzying heights or in the gloomy valleys, but in the long encampments on the plains and plateaus of daily existence.
In the year to come, we may not avoid death, loss, change, disaster. I doubt that we will even avoid joy and splendorous revelation. As Kurt Vonnegut was fond of saying, So it goes. We can, perhaps, in looking beyond marked events to the dailiness, avoid boredom. We can perhaps get out of the habit of the inactive spirit, waiting around for something to happen, waiting for the other shoe to fall, standing there, not believing the warning signs, waiting to see the falling rocks for ourselves.
On this day I was born. On this day I was married. On this day a child was born. This day marks a death. And here another. On this day I was raised up. On this day I was cast down. The days of the grand events we mark, and remember, and celebrate or mourn in anniversaries forever. But there were days, unmarked, forgotten in the long waiting of years, on which no trumpets announced, no violins mourned.
It was in those forgotten days, not on the days marked, that love began to grow or love began to die untended. It was in those unnoted days that some beauteous talent of ours began to be revealed or to be surrendered. It was in those uncelebrated, unmarked days that beauty began to dawn, and hope, and the dim light of purpose or that darkness began to gather at the edges.
As with all history, the great events are marked and it is recorded when they burst upon the world. The beginnings, the hidden days which began to sway our happenings this way or that are missed or forgotten. Yesterday marks nothing. The “new year” begins nothing. It is an arbitrary marking in an endless cycle. Nothing began. Nothing ended. There is only what we take note of, what we do or fail to do, and what we bring into being in fear and trembling, in joy and in sheer amazement at what we can, after all, accomplish with such ease.
Give us this day our daily bread. Carpe Diem. Seize the day. It may be in this unremarkable day, this unspecial collection of hours and minutes, that has in it a turning, some recreation. It may be in this day that the reason for our being stirs and stretches, peers about to see if we are awake to its possibilities.
This day is an event of a lifetime. It is in this day in which we might see ourselves more clearly and know that if we cannot change the world, we can make a day of creation of such days as this, perhaps by a simple gesture in a moment of a passing hour. A smile for a stranger.
As Albert Schweitzer said, “Seek and see if there is some place where you can invest your humanity.”
Happy new day.