When it comes to popular media’s metaphors for the turning of a year, I am presented with two familiar choices: An old man and a baby greeting January 1st together, or the ancient Roman god Janus, looking both ways. Neither symbolic representation quite matches what tugs at my spirit.
The old man—Father Time?—and the unnamed baby/infant raise a critical question: Who will pass on the wisdom we all need to live well—to live righteously—in the coming years? The Roman god Janus looks both ways simultaneously, a useful metaphor for discerning the interrelationships among past, present and future.
There’s some utility in both images. Somehow, though, they both feel slightly lacking in emotional heftiness. I want more than an intellectual reminder about the benefits of legacies or the existential nature of time. Where’s the hope, the motivation, the energy, the wisdom for me to rejoice in my past while looking forward with eagerness? I need to find those qualities for the challenges and opportunities that will fill my calendar.
Looking for another, more-hopeful metaphor for this day, I’m struck by another thought: What I really need at this time of the year—and this time in life—is someone who’s been around awhile, who can discern what’s really going on and see how to live with the future in mind. Someone to admire.
One possibility: A shepherd! Weathered, calloused, rough around some edges, but trustworthy. Purposed and capable. He/she has taken care of sheep—not dumb creatures but, like us, easily distracted and prone to wander into danger. Because a shepherd’s lifework never ends, he/she is practical and hopeful about what’s ahead.
To try out this idea, I’m going to think of New Year’s Day also as Good Shepherd Day!
Hopefully a happy one….
(To receive these entries when they are posted, go to the upper right-hand corner of the top banner and click on the three dots or parallel lines. Scroll down to the subscription form and enter your information.)