The imagery I chose when I first started writing here, trees in a train station, was always meant to be metaphoric despite coming from an actual train station I saw. Then I felt it was a metaphor for how the modern world and a magic reality could be intertwined and function despite seeming to be mutually exclusive. It was, really, my way of trying to legitimise or find a way for two differing realities to exist in my mind at the same time.
As we close on 2016 and prepare to start a new year, I come to think that the two realities are easy to have at the same time and that the metaphor stands for something else entirely.
Solstice to Solstice
This latest chapter of my life has been nicely bookended by the Summer and Winter Solstices this year. Normally my birthday takes place around the Winter Solstice in ‘The Land: Downunder’, however being in the Northern Hemisphere for the overwhelming majority of this year things have been more than a little head over heels. The first Yule I’ve properly celebrated (to the sassy joy of a friend of mine) was therefore properly in Winter. This arse around backwards-ness is perhaps symptomatic as these last six months have not worked out anything like I imagined that they would. There’s been some surprises to say the least, and life is always full of unexpected twists and turns.
Fireworks or Fire-fight?
Between the last solstice and the latest I’ve been from Asia to Australia and slowly worked my way around the better part of central Germany. Tonight at the end of one year and beginning of another I am sitting less than an hours train ride from Berlin. All around me the air is full of bangs and pops and occasional flashes of light filling the sky. If one didn’t know better I could be forgiven for thinking that there was some kind of battle raging outside. Certainly, where I am at the moment is enough of a ruin-cum-building site that a battle would not be too difficult to believe.
Of course the reality is that there are battles raging just outside, people dying in the streets, frontlines being pushed back and forth. That’s what many people are saying, what many people are living and whether we like it or not that is our reality now. Even before I knew it had happened, people were sending me messages from all over the world asking if I was alright – turns out that there had been some kind of incident in the Berlin Christmas Markets and a dozen people were dead. Touching though it was that people were worried for me, I couldn’t help but feel dismay at how much the world has changed:
Once upon a time those sorts of things, even banal though these have been, were the things that happened to ‘someone else’ and Mr and Mrs ‘Oh that’ll never happen to me/us/them…’. Now, we are all that other person; now it inevitably happens to you and me and the people we all know.
I’m at least silently on the side of those folks who protest that 2016 was the hyperbolic ‘worst year ever’ – a bit of effort reveals many good things that happened this year. Each person’s year too will have been different. Does that mean all the terribleness of this year going is just magically disappeared? Not at all! Equilibrium brings perspective and perspective is always worth having.
2016 was undoubtedly a bad year in many ways and no mistake. Perspective however, again, has some bearing on matters. Syria has been ‘a problem’ for technically more than five years now. The economic woes of the world didn’t simply pop into being over night. The political circuses of several countries around the world have been determinedly marching towards the logical points they’ve either arrived at this year or very soon will…
The answer is, really, that it’s both. Knowing the difference isn’t the trick, its keeping momentum and following through. Not getting distracted just because there’s a flash of pretty light or a social custom that says ‘today is when we reset things just… because’.
Aim through not at your target.
There are many things the different martial arts I’ve done have in common however there is one idea that is faithfully present no matter what: don’t aim at your target, aim through it. It’s a phenomenon that is, essentially, purely psychological. Athletes are typically the ones to talk about it – changing where your goal is, offsetting the point at which you’ve achieved your goal. In martial arts its typically explained as aiming not at your opponents body but the point behind them so that you’re still at 100% when you make contact rather than 85%.
If there is one thing that we all need to remember it is that just because the year is new, doesn’t mean that everything around us simply restarts anew. Life goes on regardless of our demarkation of time into intervals. We forget that just because it is a new year doesn’t mean we have hit our target, that we can pull back our strength and relax. What goes through one year into the next requires that we strike through our target and this is something that will be all too important in the next weeks and months as the world changes around us in ways that we are still fearful of.