Shape of Things Past, and to Come


Began the new year like I do most, outside smoking my pipe, reading and writing. I set some overall goals; not resolutions to be honest, which have never been successful for me, and give an impression of what happened and what might transpire in the year ahead.

On the first day of 2016, I read Leo Tolstoy’s Diary and in particular his entry (1) for the first day of 1898. It interested me for a number of reasons. I like its simplicity–life is about shaping one’s narrative as it were, and doing so with some whole, rational and moral aim in mind. While the idea doesn’t exclude exterior validation necessarily, it additionally struck me as advocating a life lived without much in the way of public exposure–fortunes, books, laws all seem to require a communal recognition. I could be reading too much into it, or frankly, I could be reading it wrongly. I think I read it the way I want to read it, the way I want to live my life. The way I have always wanted to live my life, and have in some degree done so.

I sat on my porch in the cold January brightness, smoking billowing from my pipe, writing down a few lines and I wondered about this, about living in quiet celebration finally, rather than the oft-quoted desperation H.D. Thoreau suggests. For the most part, I believe most of us do live full lives that are moral, rational, and whole if not somewhat littered, ineffable and sometimes inconclusive. It is only when we seek to make our lives more public that the process makes utter tatters of the fabric and exposes us to slings and arrows. I’m not suggesting it’s not worth the risk. I’m suggesting it’s quite okay not to always feel you have to. It’s fine not to set yourself up for failure; it’s more than okay to surrender to a life made for you, rather than one made by you. The shaping coming ultimately in those quiet moments of reasoned celebration in the cold bright sun of a new day, a new year.