Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Horse Sense: Facing Another New Year

Another year is ending; another year begins. Each of us faces his or her New Year differently, thankfully most with a measure of hope. Many who know that big changes or challenges await face it with some anxiety. A few face the New Year and every day with indifference, which is worst of all. Indifference is a form of ingratitude, a sure sign of squandering the time. Time is too precious. That’s what it’s all about really, the annual celebrating of another New Year. Most things are renewable if given sufficient time, but time itself is a constrained resource. You can buy a lot for a million dollars, but not one second more than your allotted time. Notwithstanding, it is a strange custom to observe the passage of time at annual New Year intervals. Time doesn’t really pause, but rather keeps gliding on. Likewise, love doesn’t stop and start again on your wedding anniversary; even your Golden Anniversary is no more lustrous per se than the first one. And yet we invest importance in anniversaries, including the New Year’s. The markers, like graduations remind us where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. Which reminds me, I had a supervisor once who tutored me in history and criticized my emphasis on generations. His point was that people are born every day. Generations run together, and there’s no such thing as a definite demarcation between them. Nevertheless, I still say we know something of a Baby Boom Generation and something else of the Greatest Generation before them. I’m quite sure there are characteristics to Generation X, even if a lot of exceptions prove the rule.
Time is like generations. It runs together, and many things carry over from one year to the next. And yet each year is special, unique, distinct and irreplaceable. In the context of eternity, it may not seem like much—no more than a drop of water to the ocean, a ray of sunshine to the sun. On the other hand, the big picture hardly diminishes the substance, opportunity and potential of every single constituent piece of forever. Your time, as it were, has wings. Don’t neglect to spread them out in the face of the New Year’s tomorrow. The year ahead is 365 days long, and it takes some energy, courage and a bit of ingenuity to get through it. The calendar may be an artificial construct, a mere human device (other civilizations have measured it differently). True, the best made plans of mice and men are often laid asunder, and generals and privates know that plans change the moment you leave the line of departure. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start with a plan. The New Year holds unknowns and unexpected turns; it doesn’t mean you ought not to have some personal goals and ambition. Resolutions are fine: they mean you have hope enough in progress. Even if progress isn’t a straight line, neither is it a circular maze or house of mirrors. The universe may not bend to your every whim, but it gives a little when you try hard enough, work smart and face each year squarely.
Life is a series of years; an interesting proposition begins each one. Your time horizon is unclear. You never know how long you’ve got, or indeed whether you win or lose in the end, unless the adage (slightly altered) is correct, that it isn’t whether you win or lose (materially speaking), but how you play the game (spiritually) that counts. You are almost assured of a sense of material satisfaction too, if you don’t mind laughing at yourself or patting yourself on the back either, regardless of what others think. Don’t let anyone discourage you is the message; they cannot know whence you come.
If someone should fairly or unfairly accuse you, or detract from your strategy—assuming they are even competent to do so (and most people are not), you should consider it a mere flag on your play. It doesn’t mean you are wrong or that you chose wrongly in the instant of decision. Of course, you could be wrong. Oh well. You should be willing to admit your mistakes without apology. The worst thing you can do is play life and all its precious time away, afraid of someone else or some other authority, afraid they won’t see things as you do or approve of your play in advance—afraid they might throw a flag, in other words. The object as I’ve ascertained it, is to play life hard as well as you can. Faith has it that the goal line is worth the risk, worth the sweat and worth honing the skills involved in contest. So face another New Year bravely, this one in particular, knowing full well that fighting a good fight is winning, no matter how much time you have.
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. Email:

No comments: