Today is the first day back to work, college or school for many people – and the dark moody period known as the doldrums begin. The doldrums are that part of mid-ocean where there is no tide and no wind. Sailing ships, relying on nature alone, are at a complete standstill. There is no sense of achievement or accomplishment because, despite having a compass and all the equipment and cargo, without a puff of wind, the ship is useless. The doldrums are also noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days or weeks.
When the winds are gone the sea actually has no swells, on a clear day the color of the sky is reflected in the water. At night the same effect, with no clouds or moon, gives one the effect of floating in space. The crew have to wait it out, monotony sets in, jobs and maintenance performed for their own sake soon become a crushing bore. This whole month of January can be tedious. After the excitement and distraction of the aftermath of Christmas, reviews of the year just past, and January sales, even still the next secular event - Valentine’s Day seems far away.
The weather can be pretty drab as well, and we can be tempted to book holidays to divert ourselves and rescue ourselves from the ever-yawning chasm of boredom and return to difficult tasks we have put off tackling. Our lives, if they were biographies, would be at the ‘boring’ part.
Prevailing sadness and monotony are part of the human condition. We all go through periods of ‘seeming meaninglessness’, but like the sails of a boat, the oppressive calm will once more end and we can once more get on our way. Before we know it, our lives pick up speed and in the midst of activity we hanker again for quiet and calm!
As we pause let us begin our year with a resolution to be more reflective.
What better source of material for reflection than the daily readings from Mass?
So let us begin Week One of Year II in the Liturgical Year as we launch once more out into the deep.