Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

I'm trying to remember if I'm the kind of person who makes New Year's resolutions.  I can't really recall any that I have made or kept in the past, so I don't think I am.  And I generally try to avoid being the source of my own disappointment, when I can.  How boringly pragmatic.  

Yesterday on the short 8:00 a.m. flight from Nürnberg they gave out fortune cookies for breakfast dessert.  This seemed odd for a number of reasons.  But anyway, my aptly-timed "fortune" reads: 

The past belongs to the past; 
now the time is right for
a new beginning.

So now I am thinking.  For some reason, "What's past is prologue" immediately came to mind on the plane.  Shakespeare wrote that in The Tempest, but I didn't know this until a few years ago when I looked it up, remembering the vintage wartime poster in our basement which quoted this phrase.  The design of the other posters -- Uncle Sam, Joan of Arc, "Buy War Bonds" -- are clear in my memory, but I can't remember what the background of this poster looked like.  Was it a flag? A peaceful field? Marines at Iwo Jima? A woman working in a factory?  I am forced to guess which part of the past Americans were supposed to consider prologue. 

In any case, because of its context (on a propaganda poster) and because I probably only thought about its meaning lazily, during breaks between movies at sleepovers, "What's past is prologue" always seemed to have negative connotations.  What happened before is just a shadow of what's to come -- watch out!  This is just the beginning.  If you think this is bad, just wait until Act II.  You!  Do something!

It didn't occur to me until now to think of this positively -- as something other than a manipulative threat or a wistful recollection.  Could it be instead that what happened before, whatever it was, simply sets the scene for future greatness?  A new beginning doesn't necessarily take leave of the past.  But then again, as the fortune cookie points out, the past doesn't preclude a new beginning, either.  So, whether you make resolutions or not, it seems a good time to consider both the past and the future, to mark the passage of time, and to hope for a great future. (Join me in thinking too much!)

I hope Shakespeare wouldn't be offended to be in the company of a fortune cookie.


b-nut said...

Philosophizing in front of me is like hanging a chub in front of a Walleye (Minnesota metaphor); I'll bite.

The relation between the past and future has been on my mind a lot in the past few years...too much to scribble in your comments. If I read into your fortune, however, the cookie messages seems to say "the past--forget about it." In other words, the future is totally, holistically, different. OK. So even I think that I am reading too much into your cookie.

But, that is exactly what many Christians read into biblical commentary on Heaven and Earth (philosophizing meets religion--like hanging two chubs in front of a Walleye named, b-nut). Many view Heaven to be substantially (as in substance) different than Earth thanks to certain interpretations of passages concerning the creation of a new heaven and earth. I believe, however, that this is not a substantial difference, but a qualitative difference--a redemption of what is past and present.

Christians are to be working with God (my opinion) to creatively redeem human relations with the planet, others and the divine. What is to come is built upon what is past. Eternity has already begun. Like Jesus said, "the Kingdom of God is here, repent and believe the good news."

OK. Well, I see I went deep very, very quickly. You enticed, I dove.

On another note...we live, act, and find our being according to how we remember our past, experience our present and are orientated towards our future. I think I heard that somewhere...

Swiss Ms. said...

You can always count on b-nut to take the challenge of thinking too much! Thanks for your chubberific comments.

Something that seems key to our participation in the restoration process you mentioned is really trusting (experiencing) that we ourselves have been substantially (in the other sense) changed. Our past may still be relevant, but we're no longer held captive by it; it has lost its power. Realizing this is a process rather than a discrete event, at least for me, so sometimes it is good to have the reminder that the old has gone and the new has come!