Arghh. Is it really that time AGAIN? When we do this incredibly arbitrary thing as December 31 simultaneously slips into history --- and the past year with it, good riddance (what many people mutter under their breath, I think) --- and January 1 and a new year arrives?
And then… even though January 1 looks, sounds, feels, tastes and smells remarkably like December 31 in pretty much most respects (ones that matter, at any rate), we delude ourselves into thinking this is a *Brand New Beginning.* And then we compound the folly by saying it’s time to make a whole list of Things We’re Going To Do This Time, Gosh Darn It.
(Augh! Run for the hills! Barricade your homes! Hide your women and children!)
Frankly, I thing the whole thing is rather reminiscent of Daylight Saving Time: there’s a whole raft of wildly conflicting stories as to how it originated; it’s totally useless --- in fact, in some cases, actually perilous to life and limb; and nobody really knows why we continue to observe it. But we keep on doing it anyway. Maybe from sheer cussedness. Or inertia. Or both. Frailty, thy name is humankind.
(Yes, yes, I know the earth has completed yet another revolution around the Sun. Speaking cosmologically, we’re back at the same point, more or less, as we were last January 1. Big whup. I’m sure the entire cosmos is agog at this stupendous achievement. And all we had to do to achieve it was stand on our beloved little rock as it silently hurtled through the inky vastness of space. Talk about minimal expectations.)
So let’s return to this business of resolutions. I understand that humans like to be able to turn the page on a block of time… to close a chapter… to put the past behind and begin anew. I’ll confess I’m a wee bit susceptible to it myself. We love closure --- in fact, most of us spend a great deal of time attempting to achieve it, one way or another, with varying degrees of desperation. New beginnings are like a spring day just after gentle rain has finished washing away the dust, grit and snow mould of winter past; everything smells clean and fresh, and there’s the sense of new life, new beginnings and…
…and then we go and saddle ourselves with a raft of often very ambitious goals for this new beginning, goals that, when studied in the cold light of rationality much later on, seem predestined for failure because they’re so ambitious.
Part of the problem, I think --- actually, a very BIG part of the problem --- is a perennial difficulty it seems every human on the planet experiences… and has since the dawn of time. I think it was best expressed by a man named Paul, writing a letter to folks in Rome a couple of thousand years or so ago. “I don’t get it,” he lamented. “I do the things I don’t want to do, and don’t do the things I want to do.”
Sure seems that way, Paul. For all of us. And notice he didn’t add, “What the hell is wrong with me?” Because, I suspect, he knew the answer all too well. As do most of us. And he didn’t have the voracious time-sucker known as social media to contend with, either.
So here’s my advice to you: if you really feel you must indulge in this insanely idealistic, naïve, time-honoured practice of generating a passle of New Year’s resolutions, be gentle with yourself. In fact, to contradict Dylan Thomas, go gently into that good night. For some people, I know it helps to have a concrete goal to look at, but you don’t have to resolve to bring about world peace; perhaps just peace in your own little corner of it would suffice… and could be a monumental challenge all on its own.
Maybe we should end with my Obligatory Tolkien Reference of the day: as the Fellowship is heading out from the cozy confines of Rivendell to begin the long trek to Mordor to see about destroying the Ring…
At that moment Elrond came out with Gandalf, and he called the Company to him. 'This is my last word,' he said in a low voice. “The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.”
“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” said Gimli.
“Maybe,” said Elrond, “but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.”
“Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,” said Gimli.
“Or break it,” said Elrond.
Elrond’s last word, indeed! You certainly get the feeling, from that zippy back-and-forth, that he’s determined to have the last word, and maybe the dwarf should just give up and shut up. Anyway, the point of the quote in relation to today’s epistle is, as I said, some may find New Year’s resolutions helpful… and some may not. For as Professor T says, we don’t always know the strength of our hearts, and can’t foresee what each may meet on the road.
Will I make any New Year’s resolutions?
Well… we neither confirm nor deny. But as always, we maintain plausible deniability.