Sunrise over the Eastern Sea, 1932
Fujishima Takeji (Japanese, 1867–1943)
Courtesy of the Google Art Project
Humans have an instinctive need to celebrate beginnings — New Year’s Day, the birth of a child, the launching of a newbuilding ship, etc. Such events do not only mark the start of something new. They evoke feelings of hope, which is the one essential quality that separates man from animals. The famous Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, summed up the difference in the first four lines of his poem ‘Death’:
Nor dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all;
The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn.
— H.G. Wells, in The Discovery of the Future (1901)
What one needs to do at every moment of one’s life is to put an end to the old world and to begin a new world.
— Nikolai Berdyaev, in The Beginning and the End (1947)
…every moment is a fresh beginning.
— T. S. Eliot, in The Cocktail Party (1949)
The beginnings of all things are small.
— Marcus Tullius Cicero, in De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (45 B.C.E.)
Now at last I have come to see what life is,
Nothing is ever ended, everything only begun,
And the brave victories that seem so splendid
Are never really won.
— Sara Teasdale, in ‘At Midnight’, Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale (1966)
You are not enclosed within your bodies, nor confined to houses or fields.
That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the wind.
It is not a thing that crawls into the sun for warmth or digs holes into darkness for safety,
But a thing free, a spirit that envelops the earth and moves in the ether.
If these be vague words, then seek not to clear them.
Vague and nebulous is the beginning of all things, but not their end,
And I fain would have you rememberme as a beginning.
Life, and all that lives, is conceived in the mist and not in the crystal. And who knows but a crystal is mist in decay?
— Kahlil Gibran, in The Prophet (1923)
The miracle that saves the world, the realm of human affairs, from its normal, ‘natural’ ruin is ultimately the fact of natality, in which the faculty of action is ontologically rooted. It is, in other words, the birth of new [people] and the new beginning, the action they are capable of by virtue of being born. Only the full experience of this capacity can bestow upon human affairs faith and hope.
— Hannah Arendt, in The Human Condition (1958)
There are no fixed limits
Time does not stand still.
Nothing is final.
You cannot lay hold
Of the end or the beginning.
He who is wise sees near and far
As the same,
Does not despise the small
Or value the great:
Where all standards differ
How can you compare?
With one glance
He takes in past and present,
Without sorrow for the past
Or impatience with the present.
All is in movement.
He has experience
Of fullness and emptiness.
He does not rejoice in success
Or lament in failure
The game is never over
Birth and death are even
The terms are not final.
— Chuang Tzu, in The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton (1965)
~ Barista Uno