2010: Janus and Ebenezer


As if anyone could have a favorite Roman god, or as if it mattered, my choice (and I've probably mentioned this here before) would be Janus, the Roman god of doors, gates and doorways. And his namesake month, January (one of the last vestiges of his power, save the Janus Capital Group with its occasional television commercials) is nearly here.

So why Janus? Several years ago, a friend of mine pointed out to me that he noticed I liked hanging around in doorways...while conversing; while visiting; to survey both the room I was looking at, but also to have one foot in the space from where I was coming. Some might see this as wishy-washy or indecisive, and there is an element of that to it, I admit...but there is a particular personality that would be attracted to a limnal existence, object or space.

Without waxing solypsistic, allow me to explore this for a moment...I love tradition, but I equally treasure quality newness (not novelty...unless it's kitschy or over the top; for some reason that seems okay). The past is as rich (or often richer) with potential to be mined for experience and movement within life, as the future is...though neither is better than the other; it's a continuum.

In fact, especially in my work and practice, all new things (artwork, writing, etc.) have a deeply-set root in the past, no matter how unprecedented it may seem. And this is something I readily admit. Portions of two separate books I'm reading right now, On the Dehumanization of Art, a seminal essay by Ortega Y Gasset, and Markings, by Dag Hammarskjold, are informing my thoughts about the new year. In the Ortega Y Gasset essay, he references the inevitability and the sway held over contemporary artists, by the past, and the varying ramifications of one's approach to dealing with that fact. In his introduction to Markings, W. H. Auden is clear that a person is not able to really know themselves better than others can; there are always a few important details that only the person in question can provide, but otherwise, the largest percentage of our psychological outline, so to speak, our friends and acquaintances are able to fill in more fully. You would like to know yourself? Then keep in conversation with your friends and family. As good a resolution as any for the new year.

I think too, that the attraction to Janus is related to my additional love of the idea of an Ebenezer; a "stone of help"; a memorial set up in 1 Samuel 7 to acknowledge that "thus far, God has helped us". Another related tidbit, which accentuates even more the "almost, but not yet" aspect, is one of my favorite Scripture verses, where a man implores Christ, "Lord, I believe; help me with my unbelief". Seen this way, it's both an acknowledgment AND celebration of the double-edged reality of our humanness: our fallibility, and God's perfection. I think Janus comes from a similar impulse: a desire to both celebrate and acknowledge the past, AND what is to come.

So, all that said, I move forward cautiously into this new year, 2010 (and I regret I did not adopt the term "aughts" before now, as in "aught-9"), fully acknowledging that a step through a new gate does not mean a purging of all things from the previous year...we all carry the past years like dust on our shoes; some of it eventually causing a pleasing patina; the rest of it shaking off as we move through to better and different things.

What do I hope for this new year? I will only list a few things, and perhaps you will find some common to yours in this group...(in no particular order):

-increased health (I need to begin an exercise regimen).
-sufficient money to cover our bills (thank the Lord that, little by little, he's provided for us thus far...our personal Ebenezer).
-ability to get a new roof (desperately needed)
-either be able to keep my current studio, or find another appropriate space for my art work.
-pursue publishing of some of my writing.
-continuing success of Vicki's work, online business and otherwise (shameless plug: www.piccolotakesall.com)
-increased civility in the neighborhood, city, state, country and world (fostered by my very own actions and attitude).

AND, I think we'll stop there...I could go on.
Blessings to you, reader, and yours as you also move through the gate, and into a new year. Physically, it's "just another day", but psychologically and historically it holds much more import than that. And our psychological life looms larger than most of us like to admit.

So, raise a toast to Janus! And thank God for that Ebenezer.

Anonymous –   – (Thursday, 21 January, 2010)  

was juanus also the god of choices? i forgot

KC  – (Saturday, 23 January, 2010)  

I found your post while looking for images of Janus to pair with a poem of mine:
I'm looking for images; if you have any ideas, please let me know. This is part of a larger project of poems in form that respond to works of art, although this is an existing poem that I wanted to pair with an image.

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