Looking back; looking forward

At the ending of one year and the beginning of another we cannot help but look back over the past and look forward to the future. Even the name of the month – January – suggests that this is something that humans have always done, at least since the Romans named the first month of the year after their god Janus – the god of beginnings and new things. Janus is depicted as having two faces – one looking back and the other looking forward, and that is how it sometimes feels as we stand on the threshold of a New Year.

As we look back over 2014, we know what has happened in our lives, in the lives of those close to us and in the life of the world. There will have been joys as well as sorrows. There will have been things that we wished hadn’t happened, or things we wish we hadn’t done. There will also be things left undone, tasks left incomplete, either permanently or put off for another time. Perhaps some of these might form part of a new year’s resolution if you make them! But what has happened, has happened and there is little we can do to change things. We cannot turn the clock back however much we sometimes wish we could.

And as we look forward to 2015 we look to an unknown future. Yes, there are things we might be looking forward to on the horizon – as well as things we would presumably choose to avoid if we could. There will be the everyday happenings of our lives, the weekly routine, the Red Letter days but among all these will be the unpredictable events, the surprises, the joys and the sorrows.

I suppose it is normal for us to want to look both backwards and forwards but I guess it’s how we do this that matters most. If we look back always with a sense of regret, then our looking forward will be that much more difficult. If we look forward always with a sense of fear, then we might end up wishing that we lived in the past. If we are able to be thankful for that which is passed, and look to the future with hopeful anticipation then there is a chance that we might be able to live well in the present, able to appreciate where we have been and who we have become.

A favourite New Year poem is that of M. Louise Haskins:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.”

May I wish you all a very Happy and Peaceful New Year!