Oh better than the minting
Of a gold-crowned king
Is the safe-kept memory
Of a lovely thing.
THE BUSIER WE ARE, THE MORE WE NEED THE THING WINTERTIME WAS MADE FOR: REFLECTION. If we are people with crowded schedules, full of useful work, that is not necessarily a bad thing, but we need to take time for reflection. We need to pause and reconsider our values. We may need to improve our principles.
All of us have many riches in the storehouse of memory. And what better time than winter to look back and remember these? The “safe-kept memory of a lovely thing” should not be underestimated as to its value, but rather cherished and nurtured. “Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many,” Charles Dickens wrote, “not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.” Good memories of the past are not the least of our present blessings.
But reflection is not merely the memory of good things in the past, nor is it simply the awareness of blessings in the present. It is the thoughtful enjoyment of these things. At the very least, it involves “counting our blessings,” as the old saying goes, but it also involves more. When we reflect on our blessings we . . . well, we cogitate on them, which means “to take careful and leisurely thought; meditate; ponder” (American Heritage Dictionary). To reflect meditatively on good days gone by is not only to touch the past but to caress it.
It is ironic that we spend so much time doing things to make ourselves happy and so little time thinking about what we’ve done. The truth is, it takes a certain amount of thinking to turn our activities into happiness. It really is true, as Socrates said, that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” So we would do well to reflect, to cogitate, and to consider. Doing so would enable us to relish some things about our past — and to revise some things about our present, so that they can, during winters to come, be reflected on with joy.
“A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted” (George Santayana).