The first month of this much heralded calendar year, is named in honour of Janus, two-headed god of thresholds. “This year will be better…” I hear people say hopefully, perhaps as a talisman to ward off the disappointments and hardships of the year gone by. “2012 will be exactly what we make of it,” from a pragmatic, more self-actualised perspective. As the effervescent bubbles of New Year’s Eve flatten into the sober days of January and we minister to the minutiae of our daily lives Fate may enter softly through the open door, catching us unprepared. She brings news that your baby needs heart surgery. That your best friend has been injured in a car accident. That you no longer have a job, a home, a marriage. That your life will change irrevocably. News that sends you skidding off the smooth tarmac of your carefully scheduled New Year planner.
“God never gives us more than we can handle”, is the trite kneejerk response to desperate calamities and unspeakable suffering that so many endure. A visit to a psychiatric hospital, a war zone, the trauma unit in your local hospital, witnessing an execution on You Tube, makes me question what kind of Monster we have created as a god who would gift us with this kind of suffering. The uncomprehending stare of a young mother’s eyes when she is told her child has died, a young man paralysed from the waist after diving into an azure pool one hot summer’s day, the black dog of depression that gnaws at so many, trapped in a snare of excruciating loneliness and loss. For many of us this year, we will have to bow our heads to the necessity of getting out of bed each day and finding something to be truly grateful for. We will yoke ourselves to the inevitability of change: children who leave home, a lover who no longer loves us, a dear friend who moves far away, a beloved parent who now needs the same vigilant caring as a toddler.
Our ancestors lived close to the cycles of the seasons, the rhythm of Life. During the unrelenting grip of famine or displacement by war, flood or fire, they walked with the primordial goddess of Necessity. She was Ananke, also called Force or Constraint, she was mother to three daughters, the Moirai, the Fates. As omniscient goddess of all circumstance, greatly respected by mortals and gods, it was she who ruled the pattern of the life line of threads of inevitable, irrational, fated events in our lives. Ananke determined what each soul had chosen for its lot to be necessary – not as an accident, not as something good or bad, but as something necessary to be lived, endured, experienced. Necessity is variable, always irrational, and errant. She has been outcast in our mechanistic material culture where we, in our hubris and our self-inflation, actually believe that are all powerful. Like a narcissistic two year old, we believe we can fix, cut away, or buy our way out of any mess we make. And when something in our lives breaks us out of our usual patterns, seems not to fit, this is when it would serve us well to know that our unique and very precious soul has chosen this experience and with an out-breath, accept the imperative requirement of Necessity. The “good” or the “bad” that we make of this experience is our mind’s doing, the perpetrator of our own suffering.
Ananke is an ancient goddess, and the resonance of her name has its tap root in the ancient tongues of the Chaldean, Egyptian, the Hebrew, for “narrow,” “throat”, “strangle” and the cruel yokes that were fastened around the necks of captives. Ananke always takes us by the throat, imprisons, enslaves, and stops us in our tracks, for a while. There is no escape. She is unyielding, and it is we who must excavate from the depths of our being, our courage, tenacity, and acceptance of what is.
So this New Year, Necessity may lay her hand on a defining moment in your life. She may still the tug-o’-war of the heart’s calling, block the mind’s plan, and fasten the collar around our neck. There will be no escape, except a shift in perception, and the courage to accept that which cannot be otherwise.
We will gracefully accept the necessary ending of a love affair, a not so exciting job that pays the bills, an ageing body, a severe or chronic illness, a barren womb, in the surety that everything is in motion: the cycles of the seasons, the orbits of the planets, the rise and fall of the stock market, birthing and dying, dis-ease and healing, tears and laughter.
So this New Year, may we have the courage to bow our heads to our hearts and honour Necessity, in the knowledge that as painful, challenging, frightening, hopeless, as things seem right now, this too shall pass. A Course in Miracles says: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.”
Phil Collins on Youtube sings “That’s Just the Way It Is”, and moves my spirit today.