Maybe hindsight is 20/20 and foresight is hard to come by, and the two together span all of past history and all of future eternity. But one neglected moment remains: the point-wise discontinuity we call the present, whose content is not yet specified. Reaching the Advent of Christmas again, with 2008 to contemplate and 2009 to anticipate, let us this very moment pause in the hope that between hindsight and foresight we might find insight.
Looking back over the past year, the speed at which our lives pass into hindsight and our children grow overwhelms me. Approaching three, Jessie is in every way her own person now, pretending constantly and creating things her parents could never foresee. At bedtime, with her Etch-a-Sketch, she protests, “But Daddy, I have to write my dissertation!” Martha, just past one, knows now that walking is faster than crawling, brushes her hair, says “apple,” and wills herself to keep up with her big sister always. Both love music, Jessie singing her French songs word-for-word and Martha dancing since before she could crawl. Hindsight awes us with the differences between who they are now and who they were a year ago.
Neely and I might think ourselves adult and unchanging, but hindsight shows evolutions always ongoing. Determined to re-claim her pre-pregnancy body, Neely has become an athlete who cycles, swims, runs, and practices yoga; the Naylor's Beach Triathlon was not so much a culmination as an iteration, with more to come. Her hobbies marry fun with self-betterment: socializing and study at EfM, weight loss wagers with neighborhood friends, and volunteering at community gardens. Effortlessly she continues to grow our circle of friends, remembering the name of every toddler within a three mile radius. My own year has focused on working life. The routines and rhythms of a scientist seem natural and static now, but hindsight reminds me how remote they seemed just a short time ago, how much I have learned through my PhD, and what great teachers and colleagues I've had. This year we enjoyed trips to Shenandoah National Park for spring break, Austin for Conoly's graduation, Brevard for some hiking with grandparents, and Covington for a family Thanksgiving. There were also girls-only getaways to Litchfield and Williamsburg, and work trips for me to Santa Barbara, San Antonio, and San Francisco. We are always grateful for chances to escape the hustle and bustle to look for a little insight.
Foresight shows flux and change ahead, with 2009 bringing a new city, a new job, and all the myriad delights and challenges that come along. After my dissertation defense in early February, we'll be moving to New Haven, CT, where I'll be working as a postdoctoral researcher at Yale. The prospects to do exciting research and collect scientific skills seem outstanding, matching the dispositions and outlooks of the colleagues I've met so far. Losing proximity to the friends and family we so love in the DC area, we will lose a part of ourselves — but we look forward to making new friends in New Haven, and a couple are there already.
Where, then, is the pause, the infinite moment between before and after, the insight both fleeting and eternal? John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Flaming Lips sing, “Then it goes fast / You think of the past / Suddenly everything has changed.” And both somehow, connected through history and eternity, have in mind this same idea, this universal insight we hope to hold. At Christmas this year we wish you warmth, love, and priceless moments of insight.