Crossing the Acheron

I know this is well after December 31st or even January 1st, but this blog didn’t exist then, and to be honest, I want to have a post or two in the archives for it to feel legitimate. So I thank you for your forbearance.

It is always with a certain amount of trepidation that we approach the conclusion of the year, as though we think it might just suddenly end. And it is a concoction of hesitation and enthusiasm with which we enter the new one. In a sense, I suppose one begins each as any should–surrounded by friends and family in a party. If the world were to end at the strike of midnight many of us would find ourselves right where we would want. I think that’s why we stay up until midnight–to ensure ourselves that nothing really changes, even though we know it has. To go to our beds at the usual hour would betray the fact that a whole year has past, which is no important thing in itself or in the scheme of the world. But to us, our own selves, it is considerable: A whole year of life and living.

One brings all the year’s memories with oneself and examines them at the threshold. It is like preparing ourselves for a voyage across the Acheron. We ask ourselves, “what have I gained in the passing year?”, “what have I lost?”, “what will the new year bring?” These questions will inevitably fetch remorse as well as fondness, but it’s these questions which lead us to conclusions, and conclusions which lead to choices of improvement.

It’s these choices that we call resolutions. New Year’s resolutions are an interesting fact of human life. Besides the derision and fun we harbor for them, they tell us a lot about ourselves. Being alive for another year we feel that we may redeem what was lost of ourselves, and reject that which was gained but not loved. And we feel as though we must, lest we not live to see another. We could have done the same during the last year, but we didn’t, we never. And as humans we enjoy imaginative milestones such as the date on the calendar. Usually we make promises to ourselves and to each other, mostly about habits. You see, there’s always room for improvement, we will never be satisfied with ourselves. But we hate to change. So we make demands that we’re not fully prepared to meet, sacrifices we’re never fully ready to make.

But whether these resolutions are kept is actually not the point. The point is that we look within ourselves and find something–a desire, a spark, a little yearning that wants to change. We can’t do that without reflecting on the past, as we are–for better or worse–fashioned by it. It is healthy to ask the question “am I happy with what I have done?” And it is a question we are blessed to be able to ask. We must remember those who never made it, those who crossed the river Acheron with us the year before, and who we expected by our side for the next, but are not. For us who felt that we could command our circumstance, we’re the lucky ones. Many couldn’t, and for them the reflection is different. For them, they can only hope, which is no small thing. And which, in the end, is all any of us can do.

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