18: The wisdom of the river.

- January 1, 2017 -

There’s a beautiful passage in Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha which I think offers a very elegant metaphor for the transition into the new year.

In it, we see one of the main characters describe what he has learned during his many years working as the operator of a ferry, transporting passengers from one side of the river to the other:

“I have transported many, thousands; and to all of them, my river has been nothing but an obstacle on their travels. They travelled to seek money and business, and for weddings, and on pilgrimages, and the river was obstructing their path, and the ferryman’s job was to get them quickly across that obstacle.

But for some among thousands, a few, four or five, the river has stopped being an obstacle, they have heard its voice, they have listened to it, and the river has become sacred to them…”

You see, each year, for a brief period of time both before and after January 1st, I think we all become more like those four or five people for whom the river has stopped being an obstacle.

During that time, we view our days not as obstacles to be gotten through on the way to something better, but, rather, as ends in themselves — and, as a result, we’re in no hurry to let them slip by unnoticed.

Instead, we’re careful to note the particularity with which one day is distinct from the next, we savour the goings-on of the season, and we make it a priority to be as fully present for each and every experience as possible. It’s a time of rest and reevaluation, of slowness and careful consideration.

.. But, soon after, usually by the time that the first or second week of January rolls around, this feeling of intentionality fades, and we’re right back to seeing our days as obstacles en route to the next big thing.

I wonder what might happen, though, if we were to stay in that New Year’s mindset for just a little bit longer. Can you imagine what kind of an impact it would have on the remainder of our year if we were to approach each week, each day with that same kind of deeply attentive, eyes-wide-open awareness?


Eager to find out,
– J


This piece comes from Jana Marie’s newsletter, The Sunday Letters. You can sign up to receive future editions below.