1st January

The Beginning

Before the beginning there was nothing. And nothing came from nothing, since nothing can. But something, somehow, did, and that was the change. Was it a moment or an aeon – and who among us is bold, clever or foolish enough to define the difference? Well, anyway, there was a time when change happened – and that was the change, the first pulse or tick or fractional movement that signified the arrival of time. Chronos. And the how of that change has ever since been the fuel of legend, faith and science, and arguments among them. In the end – which is itself a subject of similar contention – everything is theory and speculation. Priests, shamans, physicists, philosophers, evolutionary biologists and natural historians are as one on this, though they might vigorously deny it: nothing they can offer us is much more than informed guesswork.

Ahead of these pretenders came the mother and father of them all – the chronicler, recorder, teller of tales. One day the mist rose from the ground, and the thought was, What is this? The mountain rose in the sunlight and the thought was, How did it get there? The river ran, birds chatted and sang, animals bellowed and grumbled, and the thought was, What are they saying? And hard behind that one came others. Who am I? Who are we? What is this strange mystery in which we find ourselves?

The night came down – or up – as it had done before, the moon was in the night or it was not, the stars were there or they were hidden, and – something was different. The storyteller saw a pattern and began to trace it. Or there was no pattern, it was just guesswork. And this was the beginning, before which was nothing (and of that ‘before’ nothing was or could be known). This was the beginning, when fire, that had burned dry grass or leaves outside, was brought inside, to a circle of stones, and was fed through the night. And our ancient forebears gathered round and looked at the flames, and held out their hands to the heat, and waited for the dawn.

The beginning was when the storyteller first said, ‘In the beginning . . .’

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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