Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Boreham on the New Year

New Year day marks both a burial and a birth. We stand reverently by the graveside of the past; we gaze curiously into the cradle of the year just born. It is at such moments that we exhibit, in full-orbed perfection, life's two monumental chivalries. A natural instinct restrains us from speaking ill of the dead; we are in honour bound to think as kindly as we can of the year that has passed, forgiving its blemishes and magnifying its benefits. And, as to the year that sprawls in its infancy before us, it becomes us to treat it as we ourselves were treated in similar circumstances.

Is there anything in the solar system more beautiful than the faith which on our first arrival, our parents reposed in us? They knew that we should be human, yet they idealised us until they thought of us as almost divine. They dreamed of all the good things we should do, and never for a moment suspected the bad. In their enraptured eyes, an aureole already encircled our brows. It is with some such rainbow-tinted chivalry that we extend our welcome to a newborn year.

Few things are more intriguing than our capacity for scraping together a presentable stock of glittering optimism at this particular season. We are subtly conscious of having turned a corner; entered upon a fresh phase, rounded a cape into warmer latitudes and sunnier seas. Something tells us that however unkind our yesterdays may have been, our tomorrows are unanimously and whole-heartedly on the side of the angels.

The High Art Of Self-Culture
In a sense, such mental processes and reactions are wholly illogical, perhaps a trifle absurd. After all, the year is a cycle. Nature recognises no day as its beginning; she indignantly scorns the thought of a close. To her, the succession of the seasons represents the inspired mechanism of perpetual motion. She knows no weariness, no monotony, no senility, no end. In spite of this, however, there is a modicum of sound sense in marking a certain point in the beginningless and endless circle, and in making that mystic point the theatre of a little discreet heart-searching. Are we on the right track? What progress are we making? Are we appreciably nearer our goal than when we last took our bearings ?

Obviously, the highest attainment in life consists in making the best of ourselves. But it is not easy. The outstanding fact in each man's pilgrimage is the terrifying fact of his own individuality. Each person is a pathfinder, blazing a trail through an unexplored continent. There are no maps or charts. Nobody else has ever had his life to live. Nobody else's experience, therefore, can serve him as a guide book for his own lonely trudge. By hook or by crook, he must find his way as he struggles on.

Wisdom Of Taking One's Bearings
It is all very well for metaphysicians and theorists to write books on "Life and How to Live It"; such a treatise is useless to the average man. He abhors the general; he craves the particular. He wants a book dealing distinctively with his own personal life. It must begin with his own birth; it must reach its climax with his own death; it must have his photograph as its frontispiece. And, because nobody on earth is competent to write it, and because nobody but himself would wish to read it, such a volume has never been published, and, in the nature of things, never will be.

It follows that if a man is to develop his personality and fulfil his mission in life at all successfully, he must stand occasionally on some lofty eminence, from the commanding heights of which he can survey the country that he has already traversed and map out for himself a path through the unknown territory that melts into infinity before him. Herein lies the rationale of our New Year celebrations. We arbitrarily fix a point in the circle as the beginning and the end of that circle; and on reaching that mysterious point, we pause to readjust ourselves to ourselves, to one another, to those around us, to God above us, and to the eternal scheme of things.

F W Boreham, This Day with F W Boreham, 1 January.

Image: “Each person is a pathfinder, blazing a trail through an unexplored continent.”