Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
T. S. Eliot, "Little Gidding."

Yes, many mourn the celebs and rock stars who die, the election results in Britain and then America, this annus horribilis. But look at the height of the plague in 1353, or the Nazi incursions as of 1943. So my wife in her blogpost, with me under a fictional persona, part me that is, has me say to her in comfort. The compassion of a gerbil, that's me, so I'm told. And my character replies gamely how he does have a heart, if hidden, and that he prefers to keep it from the endless lamentations on social media and the constant indulgences of grief against the cold hard facts of mortality and inevitability.

That dovetails with a book landing in my hands entirely by fate this week. Harvard Law's Brazilian political philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Ungar's The Religion of the Future posits a mentality when we can summon up a force against belittlement of our talents, creations, and aspirations fulfilled, but one that somehow--here's the rub--that accepts the reality of our oncoming death, our existential groundlessness, and our insatiable desires to go beyond the limits of time, space, resignation, and life.

A heady work, and I am progressing very slowly, re-reading passages and pondering them. In a true memento mori or vademecum on my Kindle (I bought that e-book from Verso on sale). It reminds me of the scope of a book Ungar rejects for its Axial Age thesis, Robert Bellah's Religion in Human Evolution (2011) which I labored through a few years ago, and a third, which I studied exactly two years ago, Charles Taylor's A Secular Age. Like the time-slowing-to-a-crawl labyrinthine slush of J.C. Powys novel Porius, and the tale of the most irascible SOB ever by Halldór Laxness, Independent People, the discipline of a long immersion, if over a long attenuated timespan, of challenging texts rewards me. I admit I leap between such and lighter fare, but the stimulation of these tomes I like.

Image: "Janus-like" statue, Boa Island, Co. Fermanagh. For the New Year and new hopes for healing.

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