Beginnings and Endings: The Eternal Cycle

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Embarking on a new path requires ending an old walk, and new birth always involves a death of some sort. New beginnings can’t really happen until we’ve genuinely parted company with old ways.

There is a wise, old saying that “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Some attribute this saying to the first century Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca the Younger, but others question whether Seneca is actually the true source. The adage enjoyed a brief resurgence of familiarity when it became an often repeated verse in the rock group Semisonic’s song Closing Time. But the importance of this saying is much greater than its message in the song, and the truth of the saying is as timeless as it is profound. Making acquaintance with the new almost always requires parting with something that was new once, but has since become old. Embarking on a new path requires ending an old walk, and new birth always involves a death of some sort.

Much of the world finds itself in some pretty tough times. And if ever there were a time ripe for renewal, it would appear to be now. But as history has taught us, new beginnings can’t really happen until we’ve genuinely parted company with old ways. And there are some things that we’ve done for such a long time that it might prove quite a challenge to for us to separate from them. Still, regardless of the difficulty involved, some things simply must change if we’re going to genuinely move forward.

The Claremont Institute posted an interesting article by James Higgins on their website, which addressed the practices of the last few decades that helped create the economic crisis now facing much of the free world. Higgins cites former U.S. President Clinton’s observation that the 1980s was not just the “decade of greed and self-seeking” as some critics have labeled it, but also “the decade of denial and blame” for some very big problems that were just beginning to fester. Higgins also notes that if such an observation accurately describes the climate of that time, it must have even greater relevance for the decades that followed. Whereas the 1980s saw horrendous corruption and misdeeds by a few rogue, unethical entities, by the 1990s abuses had become virtually systemic, extending through the entire network of economic powerhouses. These behaviors persisted, and the result was not only widespread and unbridled greed but also unparalleled denial and externalizing of blame. In the end, everyone paid the price. And from all indications, the worst is not yet over.

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One part of the Higgins article made a big impact on me. He referenced Torah scholar and radio personality, Dennis Prager, who draws a distinction between a basically just society governed by rules that promote morality but which are sometimes violated by a few immoral persons, and a society in which the immoral among us have the sway to get the rules written in such a way that their unholy desires and behavior finagles the mantle of legitimacy. In the latter kind of world, despite outward appearances, evil gains such a stranglehold on the social order that it’s only a matter of time before the entire society faces the prospect of collapse. It got me to thinking that that’s precisely the kind of world we’re living in right now. That’s why it’s imperative that some very fundamental things need to change, and to change radically.

A new beginning for the free world will have to involve some crucial and, most likely, painful endings. No longer can self-serving interests be allowed to be the real force behind writing the rules that elected representatives give the force of law. And no longer can the value of preserving the free competition of ideas be used as a pretext for advancing one’s own particular cause at the expense of the greater good. Those who really value freedom and independence know that we have more needs and aspirations in common than we have interests that can potentially divide us. But for us to begin on the path of mutual regard and prosperity-seeking, we’ll have to part company with narrow self-interest, greed, denial, and blame.

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