Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot — Please!
Nothing typifies New Year’s Eve more than the image of crowds drinking alcohol to excess. And nothing typifies social drinking more than the desire to forget. To forget moral restraints, frustrations and heartaches, concerns and fears, people and events — all the things that one ought to remember, the remembrance of which gives life its depth, its texture, its motivations, and its pathway to self-knowledge. Ending the year with a bout of self-imposed forgetfulness — what perfect symbolism for an age so deeply invested in the fog of civilizational memory loss that we euphemistically dub “progress”!
Poor Robert Burns, the old poet-drinker who gave us the sober stoicism of “best laid schemes o’ mice and men,” that he should be best known today throughout most of the world for the lyrics of red-nosed sentimentality with which we ring in the new year by singing through our crocodile tears about a fabricated abstraction of the kind of bygone friendship that no one has the soul to experience in reality anymore anyway.
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.
That was precious hokum when it was a sincere man’s drunken melancholy. Today, who, beyond the age of ten at least, runs about the braes with a dear companion soul, whether literally or figuratively, let alone wanders mony a weary fit in life, so as truly to feel, in the image of another verse, that “seas between us hae roar’d”? What roars in our lives at all today, let alone between us, other than our various technological distractions, material obsessions, and tribal chants?
We sing the sentiment of drunken remembrance, but we sing it as a mock-mournful lament about the sad truth that we have not the courage to face at all when sober, namely that we have, through our own half-deliberate design, constructed a life in which there is nothing of significance to remember. That, after all, is the essence of the progressive, nihilist, collective way. Nothing dear, nothing true, nothing past returns to you.
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for… ah, just get drunk if you must, and skip the mawkishness.