The Year. It is New.
A “New Year” is, of course, an abstract idea. A social construct. We could have marked its passage last week, or next week, or 71 days ago. If we did it on a solstice or equinox, that would at least be tied to some specific actual event. But instead, we have a rather abstract observance tied to a calendar that has a long history (though not as long as many people think) of being wrong, changing, and adjusting to meet everything from political needs to atomic calculations.
But the fact that this being the first day of a “New” year is a cultural decision doesn’t mean it lacks real power. Because of that cultural decision, the cost of my health insurance went up 16 hours and 40 minutes ago. (Well, it went up for a ton of cultural decisions, but the timing of that increase is tied to all of us collectively flipping from one calendar page to another).
How much money I make in the last 365 days and the next 365 days matters more for many federal laws than how much I made in 365 days centered on today. Many businesses are charging me for 365 days of service now, or within a week of now, because that’s how they want to define a year.
Those examples are more concrete, and less optional, than things like “new” year resolutions, but that doesn’t mean taking this shared moment to try to adjust our life course is any less “real.” And for the first time in a long time, I have major resolutions I have chosen to make now, because of the thoughts and decisions I came to when contemplating the past year (and the few years before that). Could I have done that contemplation at another time? Of course.
But I didn’t. Spurred by the mass delusion that is the flipping of a specific page on a communal dust collector, I’ve thought about it now. In preparation for now, even, which in many ways is more impressive. The imaginary temporal line in the sand has enough power for me to want to be ready for it, even though in no physical way is it significantly different than the line before it, or the line yet to come.
And, honestly, that plays into the theme I’m embracing for a new way of trying to survive, and to contribute to the society that I live in like it or not. To accept that the nonphysical has power, and that trying to dismiss it as irrelevant to the base, crass, fleshly moments of my existence is not just foolish, it’s delusional. My advantages are real, even when they are as unweighable as inspiration, friends, and hope. My drawbacks are no less obstacles to be overcome when they are moods and fears and morals rather than measured barriers of location, height, weight.
I am born down by vast weight, but the pounds and ounces of fat and hardened arteries are only a fraction of what crushes me. And its those invisible, insubstantial weights of depression and hopelessness that often drove me to add the pounds and ounces, which speaks to their greater power. I don’t have to go so far as the spiritual or religious to see how the things I cannot prove or falsify are often the things that are going to decide if I live or die.
Many times in the past, I have denigrated the idea of a “new” year, because the core elements of my existence don’t change when a date does. I’m aging by the analog moment, not in digital chunks. My failures, personal and public, come in deadlines strained until they die, not crisp seconds of fireworks making bright distinctions of a date passing.
But this year, this New Year, I am embracing the opportunity, as psychological and traditional and cultural as it is, to try something new. And even if the most important elements of my life and my effort at a different approach to it are too ephemeral to sift into a jar or pack onto a shelf, the results of a change in life view can be measured.
And I am beginning that measurement today.
While I wish joy upon all of you in every moment, that needn’t lessen the impact of wish you all a:
Happy New Year.