It's time to close out an old year

Our duty is to preserve what the past has had to say for itself, and to say for ourselves what shall be true for the future.


– John Ruskin


The ledger on 2011 comes to its final page this weekend.

Twelve months concludes on a cold Saturday with the usual collection of life’s victories, losses and ties and the usual collection of war, illness, terrorism and drought.

Most of this happened gradually.

That’s why we often miss the forest for the trees.

Here’s what I mean. Remember 1984? That had been the year author George Orwell pegged in his 1949 book by that name to depict a world in which the government turned everything around on its citizens. The society that author portrayed was restricted and repressed and lost.

Well, the real 1984 came and went, and I remember writing a column with optimistic good humor that we had dodged the bullet, gotten our act together and avoided those dire consequences.

It was only years later that I saw many of Orwell’s predictions had played out with far greater subtlety than I had expected. It’s probably that way with our latest calendar change.

Great forces are at work. The tectonic plates of modern life are slowly but most assuredly shifting, and we’re too focused on tomorrow to notice.

We take down the old calendars Saturday and congratulate ourselves on another successful annual passage. We read the year-end stories and notice a lot of famous people died in 2011.

A lot of famous people were born, too, we just don’t know who they are yet.

What we do know is that the year that started with its usual promise and dreams ends with its usual realities.

And as with most ledgers, there is an accounting. We ask ourselves: How did we do in 2011?

Let’s see.

Did we lose weight?

The past three weeks of workplace candy and cookies would plump up anyone. I sample such baked goods to be polite, you understand, and I’ve certainly been minding my manners.

Did we find fame?

People magazine did not select me “The Sexiest Man Alive.” Time magazine did not choose me as its Person of the Year. The Pulitzer and Nobel prizes went to others.

Did we find fortune?

Although I refuse to spend money on state lottery tickets, friends and family do. When it was all over, they won as much money on lottery schemes as I did.

But there are many things that made me happy in 2011.

I’ve got my family.

I’ve got my work.

I’ve got the best health I could expect, considering the people I live and work with.

I close the ledger on that note, thinking, “There’s always next year.”

As luck would have it, it begins Sunday.



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