Winter is here and the temperatures are cold! The last few mornings I have gone out to start my car, warm it up, and of course check for ice on the windshield and rear windows. Not too long ago, when one performed this task, you would take a scraper and go out in the cold and clear the glass surface. Now, depending upon the year and make of your vehicle, you can now sit in your driver’s seat and push one maybe two buttons and the windows will defrost giving you clear direction to see.
We are beginning this new year at a time when the atmosphere is cold, and not only with the meteorology. People have trouble at times talking to one another. I sat outside a court room on a bench earlier this week and noticed nobody was talking to anyone. Instead, everyone was mesmerized by their phones; this almost reminded me of being in study hall.
The beginning of a new year allows people to reflect and ponder upon what is happening in their lives. Some people will be focused upon “looking in the rear-view mirror”, replaying events of the last year in their mind, reliving conflicts, hurts, arguments or maybe remembering pleasant activities like going to the beach, or recalling a sermon that they enjoyed hearing preached. The obsession of reviewing past events is the attempt of our brain to try to get things right. We may know intuitively that it is not right within us, and so our brain, particularly when we are sleeping, is good about providing the instant replay regarding our life events.
For those people who prefer to look out the windshield, the new year presents an opportunity to consider what the possibilities will be for the future. What new skills or talents can be discovered? What new places can be visited? What new friends can be acquired? What new recipes can be mastered? Can I finally sew that quilt? Finally go scuba diving? Finally dance the tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina?
Dr Irvin Yalom MD, Emeritus Professor Of Psychiatry at Stanford University, in his book “Becoming Myself “ ( 2017 ) notes “ a story about a father and daughter who were stuck in a long bitter struggle. The daughter was looking for reconciliation with her father, and so she looked forward to her father driving her to college. However, the trip proved to be disappointing. The father, who was driving, was complaining about the garbage strewn along the highway. The daughter, however, did not see any garbage but instead saw only a beautiful unspoiled stream. Unfortunately, the two of them spent the remainder of the trip, and their lives, looking away from each other.
Years later, the daughter would make the same drive again, and this time she noticed that there were two streams-one on each side of the road. This time the daughter was the driver, and the stream that she saw outside her window was ugly and polluted like her father had described it. By the time that she looked out her father’s window-her father was dead and buried.” Irvin Yalom concludes: “So look out the patient’s window,” I urge therapists.” Try to see the world as the patient sees it. “(P.P. 272-273)
There are two viewpoints- the perspective of the rear-view mirror and that of the windshield. Sometimes we look in the rear-view mirror and wish that we could have a do over and retract that hurtful comment made to someone we love, or make a better decision about our vocation or regarding our family or a significant relationship, even including our life with God. Then again, there are times when we are very eager to see events, places or people in the rear-view mirror far behind us.
The perspective of the windshield invites us to be open to the future, with all that it may bring. We can notice new landmarks, travel new roads, see new landscapes, new flowers, new trees, new animals and new sky, and we can feel enlivened, perhaps even grateful.
T.S. Eliot said it well:
“ We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time.”
May this time and the future be an opportunity for all of us to look beyond the rear- view mirror and out through the eyes of the windshield to all that is new and life giving.
May it be so.