Janus

Monday

  • According to Wikipedia: in ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named for Janus.
  • Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The doors of his temple were open in time of war, and closed to mark the peace. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange, and he was concerned with travelling, trading and shipping.
  • As we are arrived at moments of great transitions, not to mention issues of war, peace, and trade, perhaps we should revive some reverence for the old guy.  In particular, how the past must be faced equally with the future to understand change.
  • An interesting fellow.  What were his powers?  I’m not sure what you’d pray to him for.  I don’t recall any ancient myths in which he was involved even peripherally.  He is one of the few Roman gods which had no Greek counterpart, and I suspect few if any of the regions conquered by the legions contained an equivalent within their own pantheons. 
  • Well, we are each our own Janus.  We are only in the moment, filled with amazement beyond comprehension,  but we simultaneously recall massive threads from the past, and wide projections of possible futures.  We live in that very transition as time flows around us, or we flow through it.  So perhaps we should reconstruct Janus as our god of time, plop him into the books alongside Einstein, and compose a few stories.
  • In these interesting times, I doubt it would hurt to do so.

Tuesday

  • To study nature is usually to be concerned with life.  The environment which contains the theater of the living also includes the land itself.  Understanding the changes in the land over time it is possible to develop a deeper appreciation of what it now is or may be.  This park, for example, was once primal forest with access to immense food in the bay, sheltered from the north wind, watered by nearby clear streams, a perfect home for native Americans.  Then it was cleared and houses constructed and a pottery works dug into clay pits up the hill, next to the busy town docks.  Over a century ago, it became a pleasant park from which to picnic or bathe at the northern terminus of the cross-island trolley.  Once a whale beached here, and had to be cut and carted away at great expense.
  • Right now I walk to find it decaying, slightly sad, underutilized, all but forgotten.  During my thirty years residence, large trees have died and been cut down, docks have fallen to rot, bulkheads have cracked,  and pavilion upkeep neglected.  Through all that, living nature has changed and adapted, tiny wildflowers managing to fill straggling grass, pokeweed thick along the boatyard buildings, ubiquitous ragweed near the shore.  All that, and surely much I do not know, in less than four hundred years.  My mistake is always to see something interesting, and because I see it now, assume that it has always been so.  

Wednesday

  • “Those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it.”
  • Those who do study the past are doomed anyway.

Thursday

  • Life is active transition, seeking to perpetuate itself from the past to the future through this present.  It differs from rocks and other elements only in being locally anti-entropic _ building complexity instead of decaying into a lower state, as normal matter always does.  We have refined transition into exquisite beauty, and are aware of past and present and not only real but possible futures and not only the actual but the imagined.
  • Some transitions are slow and hardly noticed as they pass.  I wonder at the loss of my years _ when did my aging occur?  As the days passed, each was almost identical, but suddenly I look back and all has become strange and weird.  Trees are there as always,the sky.  Yet the sky is more filled with smoke, some favorite old trees are gone, some new ones have come from nowhere.  I am a traveler from a remembered past, a stranger in this strange land.  And I never saw it coming.
  • Other transitions are more sudden.  The birth of a child, the onset of an affliction, all the many local shocks in life, and of course the cultural effects of grand players and events.  Those we are well aware of as they break our lives into parts, and we struggle to survive and recover. 
  • Through it all, I suppose Janus smiles.  Or maybe he sighs.  Who can tell, with a god?  I always felt that, with the exception of the classic Greeks, being a god was a constrained, boring, and sad existence.  You don’t get to p
    lay much, as a typical god.  You are responsible for right, and justice, and making the world run the way the world runs.  At the beck and call of priests and rituals for all sorts of stupid stuff.  Never allowed to go beyond your special area of expertise.  Kind of like a perpetual retail clerk, keeping the universe ready for the human customers.
  • This year, I am afraid I have spent too much time looking back, not enough forward.  As always, the drumroll of each day will call me into the present, where I actually belong.  I am my own Janus, and thankfully I do have the ability to laugh and smile and enjoy the whole shebang.

Friday

  • Fog settles as a perfect metaphor for time.  Farther away in past or future, one can make out nothing even if certain of surroundings.  It is prone to sudden clearing when nearby objects startlingly materialize, and to random thickening when all sense dulls.  Sounds are muffled, directions lost, indistinct forms cause randomly incorrect interpretations.  Fog may suddenly vanish, or become mist, drizzle or heavy rain.  And although a secure poet might find it magical, most travelers and sailors are properly terrified by its onset.
  • Unless caught on a highway, I tend more to poetry, finding fog a refreshing change from crystal vistas and clear thinking.  As I’ve aged, I’ve come to feel the same way about time itself.  Knowing less about the past and nothing about the future no longer bothers me, as long as I am conscious of this present.  Perhaps I feel less a traveler than in my frantic long ago youth.

Saturday

Joan is carefully wrapping and packing the last of the Christmas decorations in the living room, for another year of storage somewhere in the garage.  She sighs as she takes yet another candle and places it into a labeled box.  “It’s so sad,” she notes, “that these are up for such a short time.”
“Well, I suppose,” I reply, “but after all, just having them out for a little while is what makes the end of the year so special.”
“I love Christmas,” she continues, ignoring me, “but it makes me sad too.  My parents and brother no longer with us, and all the family scattered.  It’s not like when we used to have the family parties when the kids were little.”
“I think that remembering is part of the magic,” I muse.  “Every decoration you have out here is attached to some event in the past.  And we still have the boys visiting and reinforcing our own family.  And the new baby, of course.  Someday they will be doing the same thing you are.”
“I guess,” she says half-heartedly.  “I just wish it was all like it once was.”
“The past lives in our thoughts,” I try to console her.  “And this helps us mark the transition to what we hope will be a wonderful future for our children.  That’s what makes it all special.”

She doesn’t answer, and goes to take down another glittery ball from the mantle.

Sunday

We think time flows, but we are wrong
Through frozen space, we sail along
Our consciousness reviews this realm
Facing backwards at the helm
We love, remember, laugh to be
Cosmic senses overwhelmed
By life’s infinity of song

Unfit to know reality

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s