Food for ThoughtFebruary 1, 2012
Sketching Brazilian ArtFebruary 14, 2012
Time has been transformed,
and we have changed;
it has advanced and
set us in motion;
it has unveiled its face,
inspiring us with bewilderment
And so we face 2012…how absolutely astonishing! It seems a date from science fiction and yet it is our millennium. We do live in precisely this juncture in history. And what a page turning in history it is! Of course we could, or at least should, briefly acknowledge that we live in a rather precarious time.
Human history has always been tumultuous, almost always dangerous and violent, often stamped by prejudice, hysteria, superstition, greed, uncertainty and fear. So let us remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s wisdom when he assumed the presidency of the United States for the first time with the Great Depression in full swing: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The birth of a new year is always cause to celebrate, for it brings new hope and offers us all yet another chance to make good on our ambitions, to pursue our dreams, to better ourselves, to contribute, to reshape the patterns of our lives as best we can, to break out of the mould. Let us not then simply cringe in fear. Let us embrace the wealth of possibilities before us and if our reach exceeds our grasp, then let us keep striving. It is only thus that we may espy the new horizons we had not considered in the year gone by. To paraphrase Ghandi, let us be the change that we seek.
Inevitably the New Year also causes us to reflect on the trajectories of our lives in the year past. What did we achieve? What did we lose? What did we gain? What were our triumphs and defeats? What was the proudest moment and the lowest ebb? To be sure, we cannot ignore these realities as we look in the mirror. But hindsight only works as hindsight, after the fact. Nor can we merely project ourselves into the future. We must, above all, live in the present, the tangible now.
We recognise that the most mundane and common concern for most of us – those not enduring shot and shell or living in police states – is simple economic survival in what is undeniably not a time of plenty. But if our material concerns and worries have their place in our ever-consumer-obsessed society, should not the arrival of the New Year pose a perfect moment to look more deeply within ourselves? How often do we pause to consider the state of our souls when we are too busy being worker bees, too busy spinning in the hamster wheel to earn our daily bread to consider matters of the spirit? And what is it that feeds the soul, that nourishes the spirit?
We were not made simply to toil. Human beings, for all we will keep acknowledging our baser qualities and sins, are sublime creatures and in what is all too short a mortal coil our immortality is perhaps best found in all that humanity creates which uplifts our inner lives and prompts the human condition to rise out of the mud. It is why we celebrate art, music, literature, film, indeed any facet of human creativity in the pages of Dante, all that moves our hearts and stirs the intellect. Our world is not merely a catalogue of horrors. We would not wish to live in such a world, nor do we believe that we do. So as we greet the New Year we urge you to revel in the richness of human culture, a culture that knows no boundaries if one acknowledges that humanity’s genius is indeed a global patrimony.
And at the risk of being accused of sentimentality, let us revel in our goodness, too, for it is the greatest defence we have against evil. Let us summon compassion in the face of indifference, kindness instead of cruelty, generosity that silences avarice, community to vanquish egotism. And as we brace ourselves against the blows that will also come, let us never forget the beauty that surrounds us, even on the darkest day. The extraordinary nobility and beauty of the ordinary – ordinary things like the loyalty and constant solace of a trusted friend, the embrace of a lover, the miracle of a newborn child, the majesty of the natural world, the sheer simple wonder of seeing another day and another year of life here on earth, regardless of the burdens we carry. Go forth, do not retreat into the shell. Live, love, drink your wine, sing, dance, ponder, for the soul demands it – and thus rejoice at your own humanity.
We wish you a fruitful and joyous New Year and once more offer our gratitude to you, our readership for sharing the journey of this Quixotic endeavour, in the hope of creating an artefact guided by the wisdom taught to us by Alighieri’s pen: “Beauty awakens the soul to act.”
“We climbed up. Until I finally saw through a round opening the beauteous things which Heaven holds. And there we came out to see, once more, the stars.”
Dante and Beatrice
(Alias the editors)