22 December 2012

Someday soon we all will be together

One advantage of working at a Catholic university is they take their holidays seriously. Boston College closed down for its week-plus Christmas break yesterday, although to be honest, the campus has had the population of a war zone for days now, albeit a peculiarly friendly war zone. The few faculty and staff left shuffling off the last paperwork of 2012 have displayed an affectionate, almost maudlin mood, stopping in hallways for lingering chats, hugging each other or slapping shoulders. In the locker room of the university gym, balding middle-aged guys in towels proved to be the most effusive, talking long after their saunas should have ended, gripping hands, getting up to leave and remembering one last thing. And all the conversations I heard ended the same way: "see you next year."

Next year, when you and I are older. Next year, when things will be different. Next year, when we will start all over again.

It's odd, this taking leave of each other and the year. Really, it's only a few days, like any others. We know, of course, that calendars are made up and every day, every minute, starts a new year if you want it to. Perhaps the Mayans had it right, and we should reckon our years from the winter solstice, when days wax in length—that, at least, has some poetry to it, assuming you live north of the equator.

But however arbitrary our measures are, they carry a psychic punch. We feel it, this passing of the year, and what's more, we need it. This year, like all, was hard. Sometimes, the world has to end. The Mayans were right about that, too.

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