The end of the calendar year always brings us reflections. We look back at the year that was, and ahead to the year that will be. I was listening to some of these reflections on the radio this morning, and they mostly centered on famous people who died. If you listen a little harder, though, you will get to a review of the top stories of the year. Listening back to some of the things that made news several months ago was a shock—not because of the topics, but because those stories felt so far away. That’s where this discussion of reflections comes in.
Why do we wait so long to reflect? Does information take that long to soak itself into wisdom? For example, does anyone remember Boko Haram? The world stood transfixed by this terrorist organization in Nigeria after they kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls. By the way, the instant reflection of hashtagging in order to raise awareness of an important event may be temporarily satisfying, but those girls are still missing, and we’ve moved on: Robin Williams, Roger Goodell, and we can’t breathe.
Instead of reflecting like this once a year, perhaps we should reflect more frequently. Weekly news roundups purport to fill this void, but unlike the learned and patrician versions of Meet the Press and This Week with David Brinkley that aired in my youth, most of these programs are now nothing more than positional pissing contests showcasing infomediatainment apparatchiks.
Religion used to fulfill this niche, until it became a dirtier word than pornography. As Americans flee the pews and flock to the zeitgeist, however, they seek other venues; they must, because no man has no religion. The structure of the church has been replaced by other structures, most powered by electricity instead of faith, and these other structures require less from us: giggling and bloviating will suffice.
What if we reflect once a day? Daily reflection can be a powerful tonic to the noise in and around us. Reflection through intention at the beginning of the day can set the tone for the unknowable life that awaits us. Reflection at the close of the day can be the captain’s orders to the first mate before leaving the bridge. I’ve often told writers that I allow myself to dream my stories the night before I write them.
And why shouldn’t reflection occur momentarily? The end of each sentence I type invites a pause, an opportunity to reflect on another building block for the current paragraph. Momentary reflection is already happening within you, as your mind analyzes and process thousands of things. Let’s acknowledge that action and make it a conscious part of ourselves.
So as we reflect on an entire year—which is really too much to reflect on, if you get the irony—let’s reflect on the act of reflection itself. Let’s make it a conscious act, a momentary act in perpetuity. Let’s not give the distance of time the chance to make life less real, and in that diminution, less beautiful.