Janus holds the number 365 in his hand. As the gatekeeper of time this Roman God’s power spanned the mundane and cosmic. The juxtaposition of the infinite in the hands of the finite puts one in the orbit of the earth round the sun. As I gladly pay for my late fees at the public library I do not feel the magnetism of the sun pulling me with billions of others in a tilting cycle of time that marks our passage through life.

It amazes me how easily the vastness of our existence collapses into taking care of business. Some days feel like it’s just one duty after another. Janus marks transitions. Something ends as something begins. Change, constant change is the way of life. This can be unnerving as kids grow up so fast, and you find yourself much older than you thought possible, especially as the people who held you as a baby die or died long ago.

Janus opens the doorway to the contrast between the everyday and the galactic. I recently read about one of those people who did something revolutionarily fabulous at a young age. He just turned 40 and a reporter asked him, ‘How does it feel to be that old?’” (Of course, I’m thinking, that’s young!) He shared that he didn’t feel older. He feels ageless when he lives in a way that is relevant. My interpretation: relevant equals kinetic meaning–you live in the reality of this moment, stretching between the finite and the infinite.

Being centered in every moment feels impossible, but when I am living from core, I do not feel the weight of my age, the bygone days, lost opportunities all the things that anchor one to the past, and can yank the spirit down. At 101, Dorothea Tanning, calls herself the oldest emerging poet. Most known as a surrealist painter, married to Max Ernst, in 2004 she published her first book of poems, “A Table of Content” and has just published her second, “Coming to That.” In between painting and writing she also tried her hand at sculpting. Obsessed by the universe, she can’t stop exploring. She doesn’t dread mortality, or simply accept or defy it; she lives in this here and this now, often dwelling on the big picture of life. This dreamer/philosopher artist does not live in a rarified world. Long post office lines make her impatient. Dorothea’s advice: “Keep your eye on the inner world and keep away from ads, idiots and movie stars.” Paying attention to what brings life into vital focus helps one balance all life’s tensions, no matter what age we are. If we don’t burn our experience through the fire of our own thought, as Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Unitarian poet, dreamer, essayist suggests, we are just a jumble of experiences with minimal transformative value and creative power.

Don’t be afraid of mixing things up. Play keeps time flexing and can bring wonder and discovery to every age. “Many people find joy in actually doing something the pragmatist would call useless.” Let us be inspired by Dorothea Tanning in this New Year. Joy is always useful, especially In January.


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