Yesterday while channel-surfing during halftime of a particularly boring bowl game (I watch a lot of college football, and no, I’m not sorry), I happened on Noah, a movie I haven’t seen and will likely never see, because I’m not into giant rock monsters in Genesis. However, the part I watched was good enough, especially a particular exchange between Noah and Hermione Granger (actually Ila). She is a barren woman trying to justify her place on the Ark, the only safe spot in the world, and he’s promising her she has one if she wants it. But she asks about everyone else. He says it’s too late for them. Everything must go.
“This is the end of everything,” Ila says.
“The beginning,” he replies. “The beginning of everything.”
And they’re both right.
All endings are also beginnings. The end of pregnancy is the beginning of a new life. The end of nursing is the beginning of real food. The end of crawling is the beginning of walking. The end of high school is the beginning of something like a normal life. And so on.
2016 is nearly spent, and not a moment too soon, for the year that brought us the miracle of Leicester City also brought us Donald Trump, the glory of Rogue One temporarily eclipsed–and forever associated with–the death of Princess Leia (and a day later, her mother, the incandescent Debbie Reynolds, last survivor of Singing in the Rain).
For me, it was the end of the fiction that I could be happy as a loan officer and the beginning of the fact that I could only be really happy with fiction. In a year, in less than a year, I went from being penniless and grasping for something to do that would pay me, to having so many job opportunities I could not say yes to them all. It felt…it felt like Harry Potter grasping his true wand in Ollivander’s. It felt like Luke, under the blast helmet with a lightsaber, seeing the outline of the remote training bot. Like Neo. Like Peter Parker.
I find endings difficult. I dislike them. The concept of time is alien to me, as if I were born for a different system, been crammed into this one, and have never quite fit. So I still do mortgage work, though now it’s a side dish that I eat for pleasure, instead of a main course I’m choking down. What concentrates most of my time is teaching, 40-45 hours a week, junior high and high school kids. It is a thing I love almost–almost–as much as writing.
But not quite.
I could, if conditions were right, go without having a class to teach. I could not, under any conditions, go without a story to create. I realize that now, and that’s an end, and a beginning.
It is the end of everything that was, and I fear that ending, the death of that life. But this year taught me that the beginning swallows the ending as a river swallows the trickle of a creek, not to erase it, but to show it what it was meant to be all along. I have lost nothing but my grasping at the pale shadow of life, when a truer life beckoned just over the rise of the nearby hill. Still not the true life, the True Life, but nearer to it. This life, too, is mortal, and thus will die, as all mortal things do. But there will be beyond it a new life that will burst forth from the ending of the old. Higher up and further in, as the Unicorn says.
In your life, doubtless you’ll see similar ends and similar beginnings. Maybe you haven’t left one job and acquired three this year–or, if you’re sane, at any point in your life–but you’ve surely stopped doing one thing and started doing another. Perhaps your ending didn’t come in a deluge, unstoppable and irresistible as death itself, but as a gentle change, as the rising of the sun. Most likely, some of each. That makes a life.
Dylan Thomas would have us not go gentle, but to rage, and sometimes that is right, but sometimes surely it is not. Steve Jobs went not with rage, but with wonder, I am told. Often, it is the struggle itself that hurts me, as the ending comes, not the ending itself, for the ending is just a beginning, as the last light of the sun shines upon the keyhole. On Durin’s Day, or on any day. On, perhaps, every day.
I’ve no big message here, no epiphany, it just felt like something I should write. This day is the end of something for me as well, and therefore, always, a beginning of something new. May all your endings lead to the beginnings you have dreamed of but never truly hoped would come. And may you have peace and joy and happiness right through the new year.