“A Ceremony of Self Consciousness”
A New Republic editorial from New Year’s, 1983: “A year is an artificial thing, a measure of experience that experience does not obey. The end of a year brings nothing to an end. It is, rather, a convention for the ordering of all that is accumulating in all the spheres of life, a ceremony of self consciousness. The ceremony has to do less with knowledge than with sentiment; we do not so much understand our situation, which is never easy to do, as we claim it. The end of a year confers a feeling of meaning. It imparts significance, a rare thing in a society in which significance seems to slip by so many individual lives. There comes a wintry moment when all these lives take on the aspect of stories; they appear to have a plot, to have begun somewhere and to be heading somewhere. The calendar brings coherence to chaos–no small gift, in times like these.”
Why did the editors decide to run this flashback? I can only assume that they wanted to reassure their critics that the magazine is not in decline: Some of its writers have always had a weakness for pompous vacuity.