Monday, January 4, 2010

Goodbye to All That in the New Year

Robert Graves in his autobiography, published in 1930, uses the phrase, "Goodbye to all that" to describe some of his feelings about 'The Great War.' Goodbye to all that seems like as good a theme as any other I know through which we can launch ourselves into the new year. Goodbye to all that is a taking leave of, a putting away, a dropping off, a departure. We move from North Dakota to Miami, that's saying goodbye to cold winters. We move from Miami to Seattle, that's saying goodbye to summer heat and humidity. We take old clothes to Goodwill, we throw away the bandages after laser eye surgery, we "bid a fond adieu" to loved ones at funerals. Goodbye to all that can be a grieving, a thanksgiving, a "remembrance of things past" (Proust).

It can also mean liberation from that past, ("Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last!" MLK). It can mean a new direction for our attitudes, new determination in the face of our faults and weaknesses, ("Never give up, never give up, just never, never, never give up" Jim Valvano of NC State Univ., dying of cancer), and most of all it can mean a cleansing, "Wash me and I Shall be Whiter than Snow." The big and little guilts we carry, the regrets, the sense of something not complete about our lives, is grist for the” goodbye to all that” mill. The New Year is as good a time as any to say goodbye, to put away, to chuck it, to cast it off. Like Robert Graves such a conscious decision to not let the past bog us down in self pity or mindless indecision is like listening to a melody that unchains us. It is like plunging into the waters of the Pool of Bethesda (John 5: 1-9) from which we emerge, free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last!

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