A few months before I was born, soft rock singer Dan Fogelberg released a top ten hit whose title and references to the season have made it a popular classic this time of year. “Same Old Lang Syne” is a bittersweet song about two adults with a previous history meeting up again by chance and sharing a few beers while catching each other up on their lives. The most poignant part of the song, for me, is at the end, when the singer has bared his soul about how much he hated traveling and heard his old flame imply that she married for security and not for love, and instead of recapturing the joy of youth, the two found themselves sharing the old familiar pain of being back in high school, which is quite frankly a pain that one only needs to go through once unless one is truly a glutton for immense punishment. After the incident, it took Fogelberg a few years to write about it and release the song, and it was not until after his death that the subject of the song openly admitted that the song was about her, and mostly correct (except for a couple of details, like the color of her eyes and the profession of her ex-husband).
The title of the song, and the saxophone solo in it, reference a familiar song “Auld Lang Syne,” which was popularized by Robert Burns. Aside from being one of the favorite poets of Abraham Lincoln, he is notorious for being a plagiarist of the songs and poems of his time, and it is no different with this work, which was published in a similar form decades before Burns’ version was published in the late 1700’s. Of course, Burns did not claim to have created the song, merely setting it in his familiar Scots tongue (which sounds pleasingly archaic to our ears). The song itself expresses a somewhat commonplace setting, catching up with old friends and reminiscing on old times over a drink. Not all of us are particularly inclined to drink, but do appreciate socializing and sharing stories. Any time where one can stop from working long enough to sit and relax produces such an opportunity, even if one does not take advantage of that opportunity often. Additionally, there are certain times of the year that are known for being particularly good at inducing reflection for many people.
Yesterday I did something I do from time to time, at least once a year, and that is read Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion from cover to cover. I have written about this book from time to time , and every time I read it, based on my particular mood or frame of mind at the time, I pick up on a different facet of the work and find cause to reflect on it. Much of the time, I realize just how much like both of its protagonists I can be, whether one looks at the open-hearted and brave Captain Wentworth or the restrained Anne Eliot, gracious but also particularly fussy in her own way. This year, in reading Persiasion I was reminded of its relevance to my life, in terms of its reminder that we are not so different and that despite the fact that our world may little resemble the world of Kellynich Hall and Uppercross village, but we still face the same issues in life, the same problems of making friends and building trusting relationships and dealing with debt and family and honor and reputation. We are subject to the same time and chance, and dealing with the same concerns about one’s social circles, which despite our technology are not greatly advanced beyond the levels of the 19th century in terms of depth, despite our gains in the breath of our social ties.
I am not someone who tends to forget anything easily that enters into my attention or concern. I do not know whether I am easy to forget or not by others, but I know that for myself I tend to be someone deeply haunted by memory. There are some people who tend to feel deeply nostalgic about certain periods of life, because life was far better then than it has been anytime afterwards. I do not want to be someone reliving high school glory (for there was precious little of that, unless one wants to count death threats received and poems written), but at the same time where memory is good is where it gives us wisdom and strength and encouragement. Some of us must try to draw encouragement from a better future, to give us the persistence to create a better future through our efforts and the support we receive in those efforts. Likewise, we too support the interests of others. When I read a novel like Persuasion, I can easily see how life is like as the protagonist of a Jane Austen romance novel (which is a good fate—all of her lead characters end up with a good probability of success with someone well suited for them). But not all of us are a part of stories like that. Not only that, but each of us is also a character of varying degrees of importance in the life stories of others. We may all be heroes or heroines in our own eyes, but we may be supporting or bit characters, friends or family or even villains, when it comes to the stories of others. Let us hope that we are as noble, as fortunate, and as quotable as the sort of books that we will our lives with. May we acquire the wisdom and virtue we need to be truly blessed both now and in the world to come. There may yet be the chance for a happy ending yet.
 See, for example: