January and Janus

Like days and weeks and months, years too come and go, except that years remind us that we are growing in age. So it is traumatic for some to replace the old calendar with new one.

We may picture the passage of time in spatial terms: a room which holds the past within, and the space beyond where the future lies. The  entry door between is the fleeting resent. In this metaphor, we fling open the door to another new year at midnight of December 31.

A door has two faces, one looking in and the other out. Likewise, this month has two faces, one looking back into 2015, and the other facing 2016, yet to be fully born. 

Janus was a two-faced Roman god Janus, and he is recalled in this first month of the year.  In the ancient Roman world he was the beginning of everything. He was the god of all exits and entrances. Hence all gates and doors were regarded as holy.

There is more than mythology here: a deep insight into the nature of Time, for between the has-been and the yet-to-come is the winking present that alone is perceived reality. Other entities in the mind are memories or dreams unrealized. The Hindu world pictures this as Shiva’s third eye which transforms all to naught, as does every evanescent  instant in the silent stream of Time.

The little Temple for Janus that Claudius Duilus is said to have erected in 260 BCE is buried in antiquity, barely breathing in the obscure pages of fading history, but Janus’s name is here to stay on the calendars of many peoples.

Who can tell what is in store for humanity for the year 2016? Possibilities for good and for bad are immense and unpredictable. The discovery of a new and limitless non-polluting energy source could bring about a golden age of prosperity for all of humanity. The rise to power of a mindless maniac with nuclear capabilities could unleash irrevocable devastation.  Education and science could free more humans from ignorance and superstition, but scarce resources could deepen the chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Religious and racial bigotry could ignite simmering suspicions into horrendous conflagrations. Perhaps the emergence of enlightened religious outlooks would foster harmony among faiths. Or again, the long and checkered course of human history could be snuffed into a mere moment in cosmic time by the rude intrusion of a mindless asteroid lured by earth’s gravity.

However dismal the present, and  the future holds, we need the hearth of hope to give us the needed warmth in the chill of despair enveloping our species.

With prayer or silent wish, surely with every effort we can muster let us snub the urge for bitterness and belligerence, extend hearts of love and hands of friendship to those who come our way, and do what little we can to make this a better world.

January 1,2016


Published by:

Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.

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