“I’ve been dreaming for so long, to find the meaning, to understand” – Within Temptation, ‘Jillian’
The new year is, of course, just a date in a calendar. An artificial designation created by a particular set of people in a particular time, marking years based on the estimated date of the birth of a Jewish revolutionary preacher. Time, as we know, does not care about dates; the endless now flows from one moment to the next, unbroken, undivided, like a river meandering across national borders, it neither knows nor cares for human categories.
And yet…and yet.
There is a peculiar magic in the new year, a wave of celebration rippling across the world from east to west as each time zone reaches midnight. It is a time of hope, where people come together to set the past aside and look to the future. We know that all the problems of the past year, the wars, poverty, climate change and hatred, will still be there come January, but somehow, for some unspoken and barely conscious reason, we still hope and even believe that tomorrow will be different, will be better.
I have the same hope. While 2019 will no doubt bring hardship and challenge, I see a wave of hope on the horizon. People are coming together like never before to resist the old order of patriarchal rule and tyranny, and to stand and fight for our world. From the young people taking governments to court over climate change, to the LGBT+ activists living their lives as an act of resistance, to individual people and groups working across the artificial boundaries of nation and politics to change laws, there is a great groundswell of people willing to not only hope for a better tomorrow, but to work at making it happen.
We are a young species in the grand scheme of things, and we are so new at living in this interconnected global society. But we are growing – still growing. Of course growth isn’t easy, but it is constant, one small inch at a time.
The same is true for each one of us at an individual level. Many people make resolutions at the start of the new year, many of which unreasonably seem to assume that come January we will all be completely different people, full of energy and discipline. And when we fail to live up to these expectations, as we inevitably will, well, then it’s easy to give up.
But what if instead of resolutions to do more, exercise every day, give up drinking/smoking/eating/whatever, we just committed to growing?
Instrad of resolutions, I set intentions for this year in a bit of “operative magic” (or applied psychology – same thing really), and one of them was “Growth”. The thing about growth is that it isn’t a fixed state, it doesn’t happen the same time or same way every day, and it is never “done”.
Growth allows for imperfections, for quiet fallow times, for vibrant bursts of energy, for finding creative ways around obstacles. It allows us to grow at our own pace, in our own way, as gently or as exuberantly as we want. The important thing is to simply keep growing.
This year, I want to commit to growth, to not “finding myself” but to creating myself, to be the person I truly want to be.
“Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” – Aleister Crowley
This is not an excuse for inaction: to truly grow and blossom into one’s true will is a great work, perhaps the hardest work any of us can do. When working on the self, especially for those of us who live with mental ill-health and past trauma, there is no fast solution, no miracle-grow. The slow way is the fast way.
2018 nearly killed me. That’s not hyperbole, my mental and physical health nosedived hard, and I was not sure I’d make it through. But here I am, still here, and still growing.
The Japanese have a tradition called Kintsugi, where broken pottery is repaired with gold. In Flickwerk: the aesthetics of mended Japanese ceramics, Christy Bartlett writes:
“Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself”.
To commit to growth can be to enact Kintsugi on the self. Rather than attempting to hide, repress or deny the breaks and cracks we all carry, to grow means embracing them, wearing them with pride, being perfectly imperfect.
“Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” – Leonard Cohen, ‘Anthem’
How does all this relate to Druidry? For me, Druidry is a philosophy and a way of life that emphasises our lived experience, as animals, here on earth. It doesn’t tell us we’re all sinners, nor that we’re all gods. We are broken, flawed, tired, small creatures, but we are also part of a greater whole, the earth and the universe and whatever is beyond all that. And so, we can draw on the powers of that greater whole, like a plant draws on the powers of the sun, to simply keep growing.
May the new year bring growth, and hope. Whatever happens, it will be an adventure.