First, and foremost, a very big thank you for your contribution to the Ministers’ Discretionary Fund, and for the cards and holiday notes and year-end letters that occupy a conspicuous place on my office desk, and a prominent place in my heart.
As we step over the threshold between 2010 and 2011 we’re reminded to pay attention to what’s happening around us, every day, and what’s happening within us, every moment. Indeed, paying attention to the moment – consciousness – is what we’re all about.
That’s why tens of thousands of revelers squeeze into Times Square, so named in 1904 when the New York Times moved to 42nd Street in what is now One Times Square (the Times moved again in 1913) to watch the ball drop, counting down the last ten seconds of the year just ending, and welcoming the year that begins at the stroke of midnight.
My ninth grade science teacher, Mr. Dougherty, had a sign beneath the classroom clock that said, “If thou dost love life don’t waste time for time is the stuff life is made of.”
Years later I was relieved to read a more forgiving line in Carl Sandburg’s poem about a father’s advice to a son who was ‘nearing manhood,’ where the poet says,”Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted…tell him to be a fool every so often and to have no shame over having been a fool, yet learning something out of every folly.”
In these first few days of January our awareness of the passage of time is heightened. We move into the year ahead carrying ‘our old delicious burdens,’ as Whitman put it – our accumulation of precious memories, especially the memory of people with whom we’ve shared our lives, so far, some of whose influence encourages us as we begin again.
2011 is waiting – it is filled with uncertainties and opportunities. It’s certain to bring new challenges, which means new accomplishments that are yet to be. It’s not so much what happens to you, but how you respond to whatever happens.
I’m reminded of the incident some years ago when Itzhak Perlman was performing at the Lincoln Center and after the first few bars one of the strings on his violin broke. The conductor stopped, Perlman closed his eyes for a few moments, signaled the conductor to start again and he recomposed the piece in his head, playing with three strings.
The audience gave him a long, loud standing ovation and finally he raised his bow to quiet them and said, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music he can still make with what he has left.”
We’re about to compose another year, with ‘what we have left.’ We need to learn to tighten or loosen the strings to make the music we want to make – if the strings are too tight they might snap; if the strings are too loose they won’t make the sound we want.
Get ready for another voyage on the planet that’s been carrying us around our star, moving us together through this unfathomable, incredible universe. Enjoy the trip!