Happy New Year! The sun is slowing making its way back to the frozen Northeast (although I find that February is the cruelest month.) Soon, there will be a new leader in the land and here in the States there is a general sense of anticipation that we are all about to go on a new journey and tackle great challenges. Even the most hardened cynics seem to be taking heart from this sense that a new chapter–that a whole new story– is about to begin. Our hopes haven’t yet disappeared in the daily grind. On some level, I think most of us know we are going to lose sight of the forest for the all the trees we will have to dodge to find our collective out the economic and social mess . For now, there is this exquisite sense of something new–a new story–is about to begin.
This kind of double awareness of the facts and a greater truth calls to mind a couple of bits by G.K. Chesterton that were quoted in a wonderful profile by Adam Gopnik a half a year or so ago: “The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange.” And: “A key has no logic to its shape. Its logic is: it turns the lock.”
And this, from boyhood: “It seems to me that when I came out of the house and stood on the hill of houses, where the roads sank steeply towards Holland Park… I was subconsciously certain then, as I am consciously certain now, that there was the white and solid road and the worthy beginning of the life of man; and that it is man who afterwards darkens it with dreams or goes astray from it in self-deception. It is only the grown man who lives a life of make-believe and pretending; and it is he who has his head in a cloud.”
Chesterton’s point (thank you Gopnik) is that the “facts” or reality and the truths of myth or story can coexist…that we can and should inhabit larger stories or myths, even as we strive to be present…otherwise, we’re left to our own devices and delusions.