“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
Those lines from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter” started running through my head Friday morning — New Year’s Day — while riding my Harley in 35 degree weather from Floyd to Roanoke to participate in the annual “Happy Hangover” ride put on by a fellow traveler, one who takes one step at a time as a member of Alcohol Anonymous.
We have happy hangovers because we don’t have the, period. My 21 and a half years of sobriety comes up short to the longer periods that others in the group celebrate each and every days of their lives.
I have no idea why the Walrus from “Through the Looking Glass” entered my mind on a cool, crisp morning at the beginning of 2016. Perhaps it reminded me that a new year is a time to take stock of one’s life and think about both what has gone before and — more importantly — what is still ahead.
At 68, I think more about mortality. That eventuality came home a little over three years ago in what is now laughingly remembered as “the great cow encounter,” my near-fatal accident with a all-black cow on a dark Friday night on U.S. 221 between Cave Spring and Bent Mountain.
At some point in our lives, we must accept the reality that life faces an expiration date.
Perhaps the Walrus was reminding me that several things remain to be done during a lifetime and I received an extension on my expiration date to talk — and face — many things.
This is a time of New Year’s Resolutions, an annual collection of promises one makes lose weight, save more money and help more people — along with other things.
Most resolutions are forgotten by the end of January and life — with luck — continues pretty much unchanged and unabated.
As a recovering alcoholic, I face sins of the past and attempt to deal with those I have wronged.
“Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all,” says Step 8.
“Make direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others,” says Step 9.
“Continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it” — Step 10.
As with all the steps we must take in our continued recovery from alcoholism or substance abuse, each one is a given and must be taken. I had 35 years of drinking to create a list of many who I harmed and making the needed amends is far from complete after 21.5 years of sobriety.
Staying sober is also not a guarantee that I will not harm others or make more mistakes. We are all human and mistakes dominate our lives. All I can do is work to recognize mistakes, admit them and apologize to those who were hurt.
I did that in 2015 when I went too far in criticizing those who support the Confederate flag in the name of heritage and tradition and not racism. I apologized to those I wronged and we all, I hope, moved on.
As a career newspaperman, I try to approach issues from a non-partisan and objective point of view. Sometimes, personal bias can — and does — get in the way and when that happens, I try to recognize it, admit it, and correct it.
Such things are not easy.
We head into a new year with some of the same problems and controversies left over from the old. We face a national election in 2016 that, in my half decade of reporting on such things, is both strange and a dangerous threat for the future of our way of life.
Does anyone really think Donald Trump is a true potential leader of America? According to polls, a surprising and disturbing number think so.
Yes, as the Walrus said, it is time to think of many things.
Before we do, however, perhaps it is time to learn, first, how to really think.
Not pontificate. Not regurgitate bias. Not babble about stereotypes. Not post one-liners on social media.
Thinking as an actual brain function: In our society today, is that even remotely possible?
Copyright © 2016 Blue Ridge Muse