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.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
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.