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An 'Auld Lang Syne' Pilgrimage

Beginning a new year by bringing to mind past relationships

By Jason Godin

Like billions of others tonight around the world, my family plans to stay awake late to ring in the new calendar year. Perhaps sing is a better way to describe it, with age-appropriate beverages in hand, near a television tuned to a broadcast from Times Square. And as the crystal ball drops and confetti takes flight, we will join together in song:

“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?”

From a late-18th century Scots poem titled “Auld Lang Syne,” the above lyrics have long been more than the opening of a song for me. For years they have served as a call, as the title roughly translates into English, “to recall old times.” More specifically, the words have asked in chorus about my prior relationships and whether or not to forget them. If only for an instant, and on the cusp of a new year, they invite me to go on a private pilgrimage through my past.

Usually one doesn’t define a pilgrimage in such personal, interior terms. A pilgrimage is usually defined as travel physically to a holy place. All world religions have such sites; for Catholics, some of the most famous are located in Fatima, Portugal; Lourdes, France; Jerusalem and Rome. They’re spots people visit to get make away from their daily grind, sharing the route with many others along the way. Contemporary consumerism always assures availability of a souvenir to buy and take back home at the end. Yet it is the interim journey that most matters, for it always includes wandering and wondering about the meaning of it all at your own pace.

A private pilgrimage through your past isn’t much different, truth be told. Much like a journey to a physical place, it opens opportunities to focus on associations uniquely yours as you employ your mind’s eye. It usually starts with thinking about when, where and why something specific happened. But “who” comes quickly to take center stage. Relationships with God, family members, friends and mentors all make for special stops along your way. Your path could very well include encounters that transcend time – recalling a loved one lost to death, within the year or what seems like a lifetime ago. Your proverbial “Memory Lane” could also very well curve through points where the pleasure of your child’s hug rests near the pain of marital strife. It is good to remember, yet memories are not always good. Through it all, you’re remembering something – and someone – that strikes you as special, involving encounters that have molded you into who you are now.

Tonight, take the moment when 2015 turns to 2016 to make what you could call an “Auld Lang Syne” pilgrimage. Separate from the celebration and sample the transcendent by bringing to mind old times and acquaintances. In doing so, may it help you and your loved ones find health and happiness in the year ahead.

Jason Godin is managing editor of Fathers for Good