Doing the Janus thing


It seems to me that this break between Christmas and the New Year is a most welcome respite — an interlude providing us with a chance to kinda sit back and catch our breath so to speak.

We have just celebrated what amounted to a world-wide birthday party (although not everyone acknowledges that’s what it was) and are now starting to prepare for another kind of world-wide party, This one will celebrate the beginning of a “new” year — a rebirth if you will — symbolized by a baby displacing the “old” year depicted as an exhausted, elderly man. Yep, we truly need this brief opportunity to reorient ourselves — to take stock of what the “old” year brought and what the “new” year promises.

As I have noted in past years at about this time, the ancient Romans had their own symbol for this exercise — the god Janus. Janus, for whom the month of January is named, had two faces — one facing forward and the other backward so he could contemplate the past and also look to the future. He was also the god of doorways — portals providing passage from one place to another — and god of new ventures. Sounds like a representation of what we still do today, doesn’t it — we just do things in a different way complete with those quickly forgotten resolutions.

OK, so let’s do a bit of the Janus thing by taking a peek at some of the unusual stuff characterizing the “old” year. In sports we witnessed one of the most improbable major league baseball phenomenons of many a year. The Chicago Cubs won the National League pennant and the Cleveland Indians did the same in the American League — feats not accomplished in the entire lifetime of a number of their adult diehard fans. Then to top it off, they played one of the most exciting world series ever with the outcome not being decided until the dramatic finish of the seventh game. Whoda thunk it? Not just one, but two perennial also-ran teams coming up with such spectacular seasons.

In college football, this season has already had some memorable happenings. Ohio State, a longstanding powerhouse in college football, lost only one game — to Penn State — a no-name team. (Unlike other teams they do not sport the names of the players on the back of their jerseys — hence the “no-name” nickname.) Anyway, Penn State then went on to win the Big Ten Conference championship game in a remarkable — and unexpected — comeback effort and earned the right to play in the most prestigious bowl game of all — the Rose Bowl. What is extraordinary is that, Ohio State, which didn’t even make it to its conference championship playoff game, has been selected as one of four teams in the playoff for the national championship. Think about it. Sure, an unheralded team is in the Rose Bowl but a team it defeated is in competition for the national championship. How about them apples?

Moving on to politics and an almost bizarre series of events. Nearly a dozen folks competed for the nomination for president by one of the parties. The one who defeated the others had no political experience, but is a billionaire businessman — now that’s a first. Then during the campaign, his supporters were characterized by the opposition as “deplorables,” in other words “ … racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.” undesirables. The unpredicted reaction by his supporters was that they turned this intended insult, this slur, around and adopted it as an identifier — “We’re proud to be among the Deplorables.” And, doncha know, the Deplorables won the election handily. Another whoda thunk it.

So much for the backward looking face of Janus, what about the forward looking face? Well, the New Year is about new beginnings — we can’t change the past and we can’t continue to live in it with the repetitious “woulda, shoulda, coulda” lament. Nope, we gotta live with the actuality of the present and the promise of the future. In our personal lives we try to figure out how we can make our own little bit of the world better and do what we can to accomplish that. In sports it’s essentially the same thing — kinda hitch up the britches and work on improving performance. This is the way we traditionally have approached the New Year.

What appears to be a major hangup in this philosophy is that there are those who have not accepted the “unthinkable” — the Deplorables won the election for president and control of both houses of congress. But, you know, that’s the way this world works in our personal lives, sports, or politics — we win some and we lose some — and the sooner this concept becomes reality the brighter the future of this nation will be.

At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected].

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