Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Janus' Doors

In Roman mythology Janus was the god of beginnings and endings. Not surprisingly, this made him the god of the new year, and our January continues to bear his name. I've always found it interesting that the Romans also used the god in a peculiarly Roman way, that is, to continue a ritual without actually having to, you know, continue it. So. The deal was that in the early days of Rome the Senate and People declared war by sending an envoy to approach the prospective enemy border and cast a single spear across the frontier to let the heathen know that the legions were coming.

As the Republic, and later Empire, got a tad too large for this bit of political stagecraft, the canny Latins simply designated the space inside the Temple of Janus as symbolic enemy territory, and in order to fulfill the letter of the law sent a miles gregarius to cast the ceremonial spear inside. When Rome was at war the doors of Janus' Temple were never shut...
Of the rarity of this event, Plutarch wrote: "[Janus] also has a temple at Rome with double doors, which they call the gates of war; for the temple always stands open in time of war, but is closed when peace has come. The latter was a difficult matter, and it rarely happened, since the realm was always engaged in some war, as its increasing size brought it into collision with the barbarous nations which encompassed it round about. But in the time of Augustus it was closed, after he had overthrown Mark Antony; and before that, when Marcus Atilius and Titus Manlius were consuls, it was closed a short time; then war broke out again at once, and it was opened."
Our own gates of war stand open since 2002. The picture above, of the Peeper at the window, is richly symbolic to me: I, too, peer out the windows of time anxiously, wondering what 2008 will bring.
For me, 2007's biggest event brought us a daughter, and through this an immense change in our lives together. But in the greater sense it also brought mayhem abroad and dissention at home, as Americans are more divided by wealth and class than anytime since the Gilded Age, or perhaps the Great Depression. I know more people today who feel poised on a perilous point: uncertain of the future, upset by the past, looking for hope but finding only more unrest and disquiet.And sadly, perhaps a quarter of the nation - let's be blunt and call it the proto-hominid wing of the Republican Party - continues to stare, mesmerized, like a toddler at his first erection, at the prospect of continued war as the solution to our international - and their political - problems. Unfazed by error and loss, undeterred by facts or electoral defeat, this group continues to push the "more rubble, less trouble" school of foreign relations. The debacle in Pakistan is just the latest of idiotic missteps brought to us by these people and their proxies in power in Washington. I foresee still more trouble abroad and Constitutional shenanagains at home if they are not given their quietus at the polls in 2008.

And to add to the unease, the U.S. economy feels to me slippery and loose in the hand, like a worn adze about to break, and I fear the potential for the first real economic downturn in a generation. I worry about my own job, my wife's, and the effects that trouble at our jobs might have on our children.
And yet...and yet...the funny thing is, that although if you ask me I'll cheerfully tell you that the world is a hard and heartless place and has always been so, that the future is uncertain as always but feels darker than it has been in a decade...my own personal view is surprisingly optimistic. We have good children who are getting more fun and loving every day. I have a job I enjoy, a wife who is a pargon among wives and a treasure among women, a pearl without price. We have good friends, and we live in a terrific city in a beautiful part of the world.
So are the prospects for 2008 daunting? Perhaps - but am I daunted? Not yet.
So you can tell me that we're on the Eve of Destruction...just don't expect me to agree on a sunny day.


walternatives said...

Oh, Chief - what lovely, poetic sentiments about your Mojo.... makes me even more proud to know you, the loving husband and grateful father.

I'm glad that the sunny day illuminated from within.

atomic mama said...

I've enjoyed catching up. Happy New Year, and here's to optimism! I've been wearing a cloak of it recently, too, and although it is ill-fitting at times and not my usual style, I am still wearing it! XO to the fam!