January, We Beseech You, Make us New

1) If you were in a rock band or worked for Smuckers, wouldn’t you want to call the first month “Jamuary”?

2) Janus [likely pronounced “yah-noose” by the ancient Romans], god of doors and gates, commonly depicted with two faces, one looking into the future and one the past.

3) In fact, it is not possible to look into either the future or the past. The cold pint poured for you five feet away is not the future, nor, once you’ve enveloped it, is it the past. All those instants are only a sequence of you happening to beer. Since “now” is a flimsy thing, let’s say “this” instead: This. This. This. This. This.

4) 1913. Ratified: the 16th and 17th Amendments to the United States Constitution. Completed: construction of the Panama Canal. Dedicated: the Lincoln Highway, America’s first nation-spanning automobile road. Legislated: apartheid. Introduced: Camel cigarettes. Introduced: The assembly line at Ford. Introduced: Richard Nixon; Jimmy Hoffa; Rosa Parks.

5) Looking into the future and the past simultaneously creates a giant blind spot of the present. It is best, therefore, that we relegate this fate to a god, who can get away with that kind of thing.

6) January reflects on the gone year and dreams of the coming. Or dreads the coming.  We aren’t supposed to grill out in January, but in 2013 we can. We can take walks in shorts and tee-shirts. We can feel in our veins the wrongness of all this warmth, and then not a week later watch the rain become snow.

7) 1813. War bleeds Europe. War comes to Lake Erie. War burns Buffalo, raids Toronto. Pride and Prejudice is published. Toxicology is born–so is Richard Wagner. So long former governor of North Carolina Samuel Ashe. Hello Kierkegaard, who said

8 ) “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

9) Frost lands on the beaches of Southern California, snow falls on central Mississippi, the mountains can’t make up their minds. The nation girds for another year of D.C. and mass shootings. Thirteen sounds unlucky, doesn’t it? Little wonder we huddle together and seek small comforts from ordinary things. Little wonder our thoughts, in the blizzard of present tension that contains also the stillness following the shots and the calm before the bombing, find Janus, who is distracted, but we ask him anyway: make us new.