Columns » Bob Lancaster

New day

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It’s one of those thoughts that, once you’ve thought it, you look around sheepishly hoping that nobody has noticed that you’re probably the last person on earth with half sense who’s thought that particular thought. Everybody else thought it back when they were teen-agers, or before that. It’s so obvious. And you’re such an Einstein it took you only an extra 50 years. Ah, well. What it was, this was the other day, when the year was brand new, the sudden realization that we had all been given a clean slate. The shopworn image so shopworn that it came up again fresh and forceful, having gone around whanged and dented and beat all to hell, it came back around restored. The new year really was new, the old sins and crimes and failures and disappointments that had characterized years past wiped away at the turn. Just by supposing it so, ’05 was mint. Unsmirched. And indubitably here, upon us. That sense of new being in a new world lasted only the tiniest fraction of an instant, of course, and that magical moment wasn’t even unique. We have it annually at least, with occasional if rare midyear accidental aliases or ghosts, usually educed by sensate memories: the smell of cinnamon or iodine, for example, or the same song on the car radio at the same time of evening when you were on your first date. All that has marred or cluttered the slate between then and now is wiped from the slate, or vanishes from the slate by some mysterious Cheshire process that occurs deep within a cerebral fold. These little redemption epiphanies may be among the things that matter most in life. They may be all that matters. Or they might be as inconsequential as they are fleeting. Anyway, in that magic instant, the world moves beyond our power to mess it up. The creation smells like a new car. A rain shower with big drops has moved through and moved on. The moment is a speckled pup in a red wagon. No one has written the Holden Caulfield salutation on it. It doesn’t have a mosquito, a suicide bomber, or a talk-radio blowhard in it. No Mr. Tooth Decay. As far as you can see, all the way to the horizon, there’s no road kill. No cat has slain a tweety bird. No dingo has eaten a baby. Pandora hasn’t opened her box. The apples of Eden hang innocent of acquaintance with teeth or gullet. No one on earth has smoked a cigarette. No foot has been imprisoned by a shoe. New snow covers just about all that needs covering, and the moon on the breast of it confirms the deal and reassures like a handshake. The forgiving power of the moment goes way back. It absolves of forged manacle and broken treaty, and lifts the burden of Crucifixion and all the lesser crucifixions. The neck of 42 is hung with not a single albatross, much less the familiar flock of them. The bomb-bay doors of the Enola Gay don’t open. Columbus decides the hell with it three weeks out. Byzantium avoids the sack. The Barbarians remain at the gate. Rome avoids whatever the 10 reasons were that it fell that are the perennial favorite topic of Rotary. So Crates, as Bill and Ted called him, gets off with community service. And the power, the magic, of the moment moves up the other way to the very edge of now, this very minute. The nearness of it to contemporaneity is impressive almost to the point of spooky. Foolish 43 political decisions that only yesterday were costing young lives in bunches are suddenly unmade and do-overable. Takesies-backsies are not only permitted but encouraged. No hunter has yet shot a milk cow or tour bus in the firewater-assisted belief that it was a buck deer with antlers. No wino has yet had to hear a sermon and join in the hymnody to qualify for a faith-based government-handout plate of beans. No child has yet heard a gangster rap lyric and had to grapple with what that meant to him or her as a civilized human being. Dr. Phil hasn’t uttered a single banality and Dr. Billy hasn’t written the vapid newspaper column that out-vapids his last thousand. In all the world, on earth as it is in Heaven and Hell, there is not a trace of the great enemy hyperbole. The idyl enchants only because it is ephemeral, because it has no reach in real time. I don’t have any more of a clue than you do. Sometimes you just have to let it be and then let it go. What I like to think is that it’s country cousin to something that might’ve passed through Alphonse’s mind at his mill, or Gustave’s when he scanned the panes depicting scenes in the life of St. Jude. But that’s surely an overappraisal. And anyhow the next instant obliges a reshouldering of the old load and moving along into the come-what-will. 2005 already. Hard to believe.

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