In one of our favorite scenes from “Alice in Wonderland,” young Alice comes to a crossroads where, for the first time, she meets the ever-smiling Cheshire Cat.
“Excuse me, sir,” Alice says, “but could you tell me which road I should take from here?”
“It depends on where you want to get to,” says the Cat.
“Oh, it doesn’t matter where I get to,” says Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which road you take,” says the Cat.
We think of that scene at the end of every year and the beginning of every new year because the new year is, in very many ways, like standing at a crossroads with our past behind us and our future, individually and collectively, stretching out before us. The difference between our crossroads and that of Alice is that it matters very much which road we take because it matters very much where we are headed.
So how do we know which road — or roads, for there are likely to be many — we should take in this upcoming year?
One way to decide which road to take is to remember our past. Perhaps that is why at this time of year we often think of Janus, the figure in ancient Roman mythology after whom the month of January is said to have been named. Janus, the god of beginnings and transformations, is often depicted as having two faces — one that looked forward into the future and one that looked back to the past.
A sage piece of advice from the American philosopher George Santayana reminds us that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Of course, by that Mr. Santayana spoke only of the mistakes of the past. The corollary of his statement, however, is that if we forget the past, we may lose out on the opportunity to learn from our past victories and former triumphs.
Certainly, this past year — a rather tumultuous one at that — has had triumphs and disappointments for many of us individually and for all of us here in Steele County. As we reflect back on this past year, let us also look forward to the upcoming year — a year in which there will be many challenges and many changes in our communities, in the county as a whole, in the state of Minnesota, across our nation, and around our world.
Let us learn from our past as we face the future. That is, after all, what the new year is all about.
Happy new year, one and all.
Waseca County News editorials are the opinion of the County News editorial board. Other editorials, columns, letters and cartoons appearing on this page are the opinions of the authors and artists and not necessarily the County News.