Harrison Middleton University

Lexicon for a New Year

Lexicon for a New Year

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


January 1, 2021

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, ooh, and I’m feeling good….” –Nina Simone

2020 has been a year of confusions. Of ups and downs. Though stability is always ephemeral, 2020 literally defined instability. I do not wish to catalog the complaints, but rather to reach into the new year embracing this cloak of darkness. In “Night and Moonlight,” Thoreau discovers moonlight’s essence, and also stumbles upon the weaknesses of day. Also in 19 Varieties of Gazelle, Naomi Shihab Nye explores the many conjunctions of our lives, both known and unknown. In other words, I intend to welcome 2021 as an opportunity to refresh my vision.

In “Night and Moonlight,” Thoreau says of the moon:

“Great restorer of antiquity, great enchanter. In a mild night, when the harvest or hunter’s moon shines unobstructedly, the houses in our village, whatever architect they may have had by day, acknowledge only a master. The village street is then as wild as the forest. New and old things are confounded. I know not whether I am sitting on the ruins of a wall, or on the material which is to compose a new one. Nature is an instructed and impartial teacher, spreading no crude opinions, and flattering none; she will be neither radical nor conservative. Consider the moonlight, so civil, yet so savage!”

He continues:

“The light is more proportionate to our knowledge than that of day. It is no more dusky in ordinary nights, than our mind’s habitual atmosphere, and the moonlight is as bright as our most illuminated moments are. …

“Of what significance the light of day, if it is not the reflection of an inward dawn?–to what purpose is the veil of night withdrawn, if the morning reveals nothing to the soul? It is merely garish and glaring.”

Add to this a few of Naomi Shihab Nye’s words, which I hope will provide the comfort of a blanket, and stir the soul toward positive movement. I sincerely hope that the new year will be a door, swinging open wide enough to include us all.

From “Biography of an Armenian Schoolgirl”:

“Once I bought bread from the vendor with the/ humped back./ I carried it home singing,/ the days had doors in them/ that would swing open in front of me. … What do you do when you are tired of what you see…. There is something else we were born for./ I almost remember it. While I write,/ a ghost writes on the same tablet,/ achieves a different sum.”

From “The Garden of Abu Mahmoud”

“[H]e came out to this garden,/ dug hands into earth saying, I know you/ and earth crumbled rich layers … And he called it querido, corazon,/ all the words of any language/ connecting to the deep place/ of darkness and seed. He called it/ ya habibi in Arabic, my darling tomato,/ and it called him governor, king,/ and some days he wore no shoes.”

Allin wata kachun qanqunapaq/ Feliz Año Nuevo/ blwyddyn newydd dda/ Buon anno/ Frohes Neues Jahr/ Bonne Année/ Yeni iliniz mübarək ….. Happy New Year – from all of us – to all of you.

If you wish to discuss Thoreau’s “Night and Moonlight,” join our January Quarterly Discussion. Email as****@hm*.edu for more information.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post and scroll down.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Skip to content