Letter of the New Year

Dear Sojourner and Compatriot,

At this, the beginning of a New Year, it seems appropriate to look back at the one that has past, and forward – as best we can – to the one that has just begun.  One year ago we recognized that 2013 was expected to be a year of transition, and 2014 to be a year of turmoil.  I wonder if, in fact, they have been reversed, with turmoil having done its part and now yielding to transition?  History will judge for events are upon us now and are yet to come.

With the year past, it is good to reflect on the themes that may have impacted our lives.  One that quickly comes to mind is distress.  Of course there can be many forms; certainly there were the personal concerns of health and wellness, but there were also the communal and systemic issues that stem from a failure of leadership and the resulting distrust of institutions.  Whether those institutions pertain to the secular governing of society or the spiritual care of souls, failure of leadership to care for and take consideration of the people they would hope to lead are often signposts of incompetence or immaturity.  This is dangerous.  Rarely, though modern tools of communication would have us believe otherwise, is such conduct the result of vast conspiracies or evil in the hearts of men.  Yet this is what we so often choose to believe.  Such reactions demonstrate that the perception of things amiss and the emotions that result can be far more important than the reality.  As a result, those in leadership have an obligation to be truth-tellers and able administrators rather than political operatives, so that when they seek to reassure the population that reassurance means something.  Do we not also, however, have the responsibility to weigh facts and rationality in the way we respond to the outside world, while at the same time exercising great liberty with our own thoughts?  It is on this theme, in response to the year past and looking forward to the one just begun, that I ask for your indulgence.

The beauty of the human mind is its capacity for complex thought, soaring ideas, intense emotion, and extraordinary rationality.  Despite whatever societal pressures we may have experienced in the past and may also experience in the year to come, the one place where you and I can be truly free, without limit, is in our thoughts.  We have the liberty to entertain boundless expression and creativity, fantasy, and even irrationality.  Many great advances in the course of human events came from those who did not let their imaginations be limited.  How to implement creative ideas is a different hurdle and not an insignificant question.  For most who are only interested in the volume and variety of the bread and circuses with which society provides them, this is not a matter of serious inquiry.  But why would any of us want to be one of those people?  Certainly there is more to life than that.

The question is one of balance, to be sure.  Freedom of thought is an avenue for security of belief, but we are not permitted to play fast and loose with facts, no matter what our emotions may tell us.  We are rational creatures.  It is not that pure rationalism and realism are always the best course either, but factual deception is to lie to one’s self and to others.  We accept the world as it is (but as it truly is, not worse or better than it is), and can imagine something more or something else.  Spirituality remains alive in a world of realism by accepting the actual, undistorted, un-politicized nature of things, and finding one’s heart within that which is.

What do we know about that which is?  We know that life is not fair nor is it just, but that should not prevent us from trying to ensure fairness and justice for others.  We are judged in this life and we judge others – though we know we should not.  Yet, forgiveness is the process and pathway that transcends fairness and justice to arrive at something far beyond reason or rationality – and that is love.  Where forgiveness is withheld, love cannot dwell.  Further, permit me to say that I reject the notion that love can be categorized, or determined by status, form of relationship, or bonds of social or religious obligation.  Love is, and it cannot be defined, refined, or reduced.  How it is manifested is unique to each person, and that is the epitome of the real yet irrational beauty of the human creation.  Remarkably, when gathered into groups we are all too easily subject to predictive analysis and polling.  Perhaps even we, the human being, reflect the quantum and classical divide in physics?

With the challenges ahead, let us not be too easily led astray by the emotionalism of those who seek to persuade us, whether they be politicians, the news media, religious leaders, or others.  Come what may let us not be dismayed.  It is reality – facts as best we can determine them within our limited capacities – that provide the platform on which the spirit can be enlivened and freed.  With that, I leave you part VII of William Butler Yeats’ poem, “Vacillation”:

The Soul:  Seek out reality, leave things that seem.

The Heart:  What, be a singer born and lack a theme?

The Soul:  Isaiah’s coal, what more can man desire?

The Heart:  Struck dumb in the simplicity of fire!

The Soul:  Look on that fire, salvation walks within.

The Heart:  What theme had Homer but original sin?

Find reality yet sing!  Forgive and experience forgiveness.  We were born for these things.  I have no doubt that in the year to come, we will need them in abundance.

This First day of January, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Fourteen,

Rdr. Timothy J. Keefer, Esq.
Steward of Keeferton