A Time for Reflection

The Winter Solstice is the occasion for a large number of holidays, many more than the summer solstice, and many having to do with the ideas of rebirth, of bringing back the light lost during the waning year, and new beginnings. Also scattered among these mid-winter celebrations is the idea of remembering the past, either our own, or of famous historical and mythological figures who sacrificed in some way, gave gifts, aided the poor, or events that are considered miraculous. There is a feeling of wrapping up the old year.

In fact, the second most important holiday in Japan is Omisoka, or New Year’s Eve, a time for concluding the old year by “house cleaning, repaying debts, purification, and bathing,” among other activities designed to prepare for the “crossing over from one year to the next.”

In Western society we find a number of people remembering Christmases or Hanukkahs or other mid-winter celebrations of the past, particularly of their childhoods, or holidays with friends or loved ones who have passed out of their lives. Unfortunately, such remembrances can lead to holiday depression in some. For example, I knew a woman who could never get through Christmas Day without crying; she never explained why, but I’m reasonably sure that it was not happy memories. But not all memories are sad, and they are what many people treasure about holiday time.

Whatever our belief systems or celebration preferences, this is a time of wrapping up the old and preparing for the new. Unless we live in a cave, it’s difficult to get through the season without experiencing some of this. My suggestion is to embrace this transition.

Since so much has been written on new beginnings and renewal and fresh starts and all of that, I would like to talk about the wrapping up part: reflecting on the year past. There is much to be learned from looking back at the past twelve months, particularly for creative people. This is a time when the days are short and the nights are long, and that, in itself, aids reflection on the past: there seems to be time to consider things, to look at our successes and failures and trials and difficulties and evaluate our responses to those situations. Such is not intended to make us dwell on any one aspect of the past year, but to look at the whole—from a slight remove, so that we can evaluate the year objectively—and objectivity is the key to this activity. We can begin to learn what worked, what didn’t work, what changes we might have made to better realize our projects. When we have done this, we will be better informed about our own strengths and weaknesses and better able to move forward into the new year, armed with new knowledge about our creative process.

And that, after all, is the goal of reflection, not to reminisce, not to beat ourselves up over failures or gloat over successes, but to consider, to analyze, so that we can move forward with improved creativity to make new and better work. As I write this, the Winter Solstice is just days away, and the New Year follows shortly; if you haven’t yet taken the time to reflect on your creative work of the past year, I would encourage you to do so. Your creative output will benefit.

Date: Sunday, 19. December 2021 20:08
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