So this is the end — not of our life in these times, of course, though there have been a few times when we've had to wonder. It's the end of 2015, which at times has seemed a portent of the end of, well, everything we thought we knew.
It has been almost six months, for example, since Donald Trump entered the presidential race and began throwing the rhetorical bombs that learned pundits kept assuring us would quickly disqualify him as a serious candidate (Mexicans as rapists; John McCain as a captive coward; women as horse-faced opponents or menstruating idiots; the disabled as fodder for mocking; Muslims as universally treacherous and therefore subject to a ban from entering the United States).
The "hits" keep happening, and Trump has grown stronger, not weaker, and, going into the year of decision for the 2016 presidential race, he remains at the top of the political ladder, at least among Republican candidates.
But no, this is not the end. Not yet. Although ...
The rat-a-tat of lethal weaponry in Paris, in Colorado, in South Carolina, in California, and God knows where else keeps interrupting the inspiring rhythms of "The Little Drummer Boy" and other holiday favorites. But even with this menace, with rapturists and jihadists and independent crazies desiring the end of things and people not disposed to echo their beliefs with all their hearts and minds, this is still not the end.
Like it or not, the life of this planet, and, we suspect, of all creation, would seem to take the form of a loop, of an endlessly repeated cycle, and not of a strictly linear narrative with a discrete beginning, middle, and end. Everything from archaeology to DNA research to the black holes of Einstein's relativistic universe suggests as much.
So all of us writing in this issue of the Flyer are engaged with simultaneously looking back and looking forward, in recognition of this principle of an eternal cycle that doubles back on itself and returns to some place eerily like one that we, or our forbearers, have been before. And, armed or alerted with this sense of the familiar, we proceed ahead into the next turning of the eternal gyre.
That notion of the gyre is something we of the Western world owe to William Butler Yeats, whose poem, "The Second Coming," gave us lines to remember through all the cycles, all the turnings of fate that seem to foreshadow an end but merely invite a new beginning: These are times, as Yeats wrote a century ago, when "the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity."
A hundred years later, and it's still true. It will always be still true. And we will survive and scramble to find our place in a brand new cycle, which itself will seem to be leading to an end but will just be continuing the same old adventure in a new cycle. Or a new issue. Or ...
Oh, what the heck. Happy New Year! Let's just start everything all over again.