Well here it is. New Years Day 2015 (obviously using the Gregorian Calendar. Those who adhere to the Chinese Calendar, or possibly other calendars, may not have crossed the Year boundary as of yet. But that is OK because it is not WHEN the boundary occurs but rather WHAT those boundaries in our lives are.) Another Year boundary has come and gone. The New Year is here and the old year has passed away. The New Year is faced with unknowns, hopes, fears, and possibly resolutions. While the old year passes away with reminiscence, fond memories, regrets, sadness, and joy. And people all over the world are suddenly filled with a sense of nostalgia.
A wise man of my youth, Dr. Joseph Boatwright, once told me that in living my life I should employ the same practices as that of driving a car. When you drive a car you focus mainly on where you are going and only fleetingly on where you have been. The driver spends the majority of their time looking out the windshield of the car at the road ahead of them, attempting to ascertain hazards, obstacles, and the best possible path to take. The wise driver then glances into the rear view mirror occasionally to see where they have been and what may lay behind them. And indeed I have tried to practice this in my life. And it has not been all that difficult (and I’m not saying I’m a good driver mind you, just because you can successfully guide your vehicle down the road does not mean you are ready for the race track) because I am not all that nostalgic a person. But even the staunches of us tend to lean towards even small feelings of nostalgia this time of year.
And why not? We are permeated with the thoughts, images, sounds, and reminiscence of those who are nostalgic at this time of year. The thought of the Year In Review overwhelms us and we are caught up in the moment and wonderment of those around us.
For the Atheist this must be an absolutely bitter-sweet moment. The Atheist can never really draw any purpose out of life. Not if they are intellectually honest with themselves anyway. If the Atheist is really and truly honest with themselves (and with others) they should come to the conclusion that any real, lasting legacy will one day simply vanish into obscurity and that when it does, there will be no one left to care or to watch the particles of cosmic dust blow away. So the Atheist, in a very real since is simply gratifying a need they find themselves faced with at a particular moment in time. Just another process playing out in the great big cosmos of bumper particles (we are all just atoms, molecules, elements, – name your article of breakdown – that are smashing into each other as we make our way out from the center of the Big Bang).
But what about the Theist? The Theist does the same thing, however their world view is governed by a Creator, a God. One whom, they believe, will perpetually carry on their Spirit (their very essence of life) forever and ever into eternity. But the question is still there. In the vast stretches of time, in the eons of eternity, will anyone care one wit what occurred in the year 2014 or will anyone even remember? And why in the world would it even be important.
Faced with the vastness of time, given our failing memories, the occurrences of one year pale and become insignificant and we tend to treat them with less importance. How soon we forget too. The further into the future we drive, the less important the things of the past become. Consider World War II for example. Ending in 1945, just a scant sixty-nine years ago, and encompassing the globe, every person alive today should have a parent or a grandparent that was impacted by this global event. But how many people alive today under the age of twenty really feel impacted by that event? And even though there are those of you out there right now shouting at your computer screens “Me! Me! My life is greatly impacted by the events of the great war!” what if I suddenly changed my example to World War I? Now a mere one-hundred years past and a generation plus, and those that are under twenty feel like it is something of a distant memory.
And yet at the moment of the New Year, for that brief glimmer of time, all of us to one extent or another are inexplicitly filled with a sense of nostalgia. We all tend to become sentimental mushes at the turn of the New Year. And one might wonder why? Where does this come from and should we ignore it or is it even important?
Actually the Bible offers great evidence that what lies behind us is important and will impact our future. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus recounts an event of a certain rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. In the torments of Hell, the rich man spies Lazarus afar off with Abraham (verse 23). And he cries out to Abraham with a request that Lazarus be allowed to dip his finger in water and allow the drops of water to fall on his tongue (he wanted a cold drink of water). Most people gloss over Abraham’s response, but the first word is so telling and the second word so impactful. Abraham said “Son, remember …” (verse 25). He called the rich man “Son”. He acknowledged him as part of his family! And he asked him to “remember” those events in his life on earth. Abraham asked a man in Hell to be nostalgic for a moment and consider why he was in the circumstances he was in.
So what of nostalgia? Well while I would recommend us all to lead full and balanced lives, at this time of year it might just be appropriate to, in the words of the Poet Robert Burns, who wrote the poem Auld Lang Syne, answer the rhetorical question:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days of long ago? (auld lang syne)
with a resounding No! and encourage us all to take a moment to glance into the rear view mirror of our lives and laugh, cry, reminisce, but most importantly to remember what lies behind in 2014. Lest we end up like the rich man with Father Abraham from Heaven suggesting that we remember.
Wishing All of You a very Happy New Year!