I wrote back then how wonderful it would be if the miseries of the old year could be banished to outer darkness with the same great crescendo-peal of bells that ushered in the new. “Ring out the old, ring in the new / Ring happy bells, across the snow / The year is going, let him go / Ring out the false, ring in the true.”
A decade ago, I wondered how a year of life would be if it unfolded free of falsehood, full of truth. Not just from our politicians, their “spin doctors” and world leaders in commerce, but from ourselves. We are quick to rage at politicians who fail to keep promises or deliberately deceive, but not so quick to condemn our own acts of deception. There are few, if any, among us who have not practised, with dubious defence, the art of the white lie.
I find my white lies are always justifiable, and told for the kindest of reasons. Only when people bounce white lies off me do I find the practice deplorable and lecture to all who will listen on the falling standards of honesty.
Maybe I should pay more attention to Tennyson. Maybe we all should — but especially the politicians of British Columbia, as they start their warm-up exercises for the general election scheduled for May. Tennyson wrote: “Ring out a slowly dying cause / And ancient forms of party strife / Ring in the nobler modes of life / With sweeter manners, purer laws.”
Is that setting the bar impossibly high for Wild West politicians who cling with unfailing tenacity to “ancient forms of party strife”? Who follow the party line, ignoble though they know that line to be? Who believe bellicosity is a display of strength and “sweeter manners” a sign of weakness?
Answering my own questions, I don’t think the bar too high for any one of us in general, or for politicians in particular. Tennyson wrote: “Ring out false pride in place and blood / The civic slander and the spite / Ring in the love of truth and right / Ring in the common love of good.” Think on those things. On false pride, civic slander, spite — evils we can control and eliminate with a little thought and effort; and replace with what we believe to be true and right and for the common good.
Achievable targets for 2013? Ten years ago, I invited readers to imagine life without false pride, a world without politicians or pundits whose words carried hints of slander tinged with spite. A world where governments treasured a love of truth and “the common love of good” above all else. And I confessed it was all just a dream “that could happen, but not, I suspect, without divine intervention.”
The past decade hasn’t seen a change of mind, although mankind continues to register a few victories. Tennyson wanted his pealing bells of New Year’s to ”Ring out old shapes of foul disease / Ring out the narrowing lust for gold / Ring out the thousand wars of old / Ring in the thousand years of peace.”
Old shapes of foul disease still exist, but not in the numbers they once did. Many have already been “rung out,” and we’re closing in on others. The same rate of progress has not been achieved in ringing out the lust for gold or the fondness of war as a method for solving international problems.
Tennyson died in 1892, some 42 years after writing his epic poem In Memoriam. He wrote of “the faithless coldness of the times” he lived in, and 180 years later we can’t claim much has changed. But come midnight Monday you might find time to whisper or shout: “Ring out wild bells … the year is dying … let him die … ring out the old, ring in the new, ring out the false, ring in the true … ring in the valiant man and free … the larger heart, the kindlier hand … ring out the darkness of the land.”
And never stop dreaming.
© Copyright 2013