Welcome to January – the month of beginnings and ends.
And, while we're at it, when?
To be sure – or even certainly – the more I think about
it, the more I lose certainty.
Here's a dialogue between a child and an adult about the
nothing – or is it everything? – that
lies beyond the edge of the known world, as it then was.
And what is it that lies beyond
beyond the Pillars of Hercules?
The waters, child, that
as far as the eye can see.
So beyond, what lies beyond
past what my eye can see?
Never ever ending ocean
like time, which never ends.
But if I travel long enough
might an end come into sight?
I do not know. I cannot
what it is the future holds.
Does the ocean hold the future
as the past sets with the sun?
The sun sinks in the endless
between the Pillars, in the
If I could fly across the ocean
would time slow down, perhaps even stop?
The ocean's infinite.
There will be time
more than enough for all your
Non plus ultra
(nothing further beyond) was said to be inscribed on the Pillars of Hercules,
where the Mediterranean and Atlantic meet – the end of the known world in
Antiquity, possibly the entrance to Hades and the beginning of, well, nothingness.
Perhaps the child here can see more clearly – or at least
ask sensible questions that might lead to a better understanding of nothing (or
its opposite) being beyond – than the present adult to whom it turns. The authoritative responses are not always
But then all of this was in classical times when we know only too
well scientific knowledge was very limited. Of course, we now know so much more
about what lies beyond. So the certainty with which we might answer childish
questions like these can be justified.
But as they say, the more we know, the more we know we
don't know. And even the (sometimes)
wise grown-up in the middle of his/her answers in my poem responds with a
confession of ignorance.
I don't know either.
Especially as I stand here this January before another
pair of Pillars of Hercules, looking out at the New Year into the future. I
find myself wondering, like that child, what lies beyond.
For now though, I've decided not to worry about how long
and far it will go on and what finity/infinity may mean. No more questions, no
more (clearly and inevitably not always true) answers.
What is certain is that some things are finished and others
So, a(nother) New Year with all its unknowns, starts and
ends, to step into.
May it hold happiness and fulfilment for us all.