Friday, December 31, 2010

Here we go again

Well, here we are again – at the beginning of a whole new year.

Let’s get the cynicism out of the way first.

We all know that there is no real significance to a new year day. It is just another day which will come and go uneventfully and the world will carry on. In astronomical terms it signifies that the earth has completed another revolution around the sun since the last new year. But since we don’t know when exactly the earth started its first circle around the sun, January 1st does not necessarily signify the completion of a full orbit. For all we know the whole thing started on the 14th of March in which case the earth still has a quarter run to go before completing its current orbit around the sun.

And even if we arbitrarily take January 1st as the the starting point and celebrate the completion of a full orbit on that day, what does that mean ? If the earth actually stopped at this point and did a little jiggle or took a bow – like a sprinter completing a lap of a very long race – we’d have something to cheer about.  As it is the earth just keeps on going, which is just as well because if it did stop it would get pulled into the sun due to gravity.

Now this is an interesting commentary of life on earth. The earth has to keep moving to generate the force it needs to counter the sun’s gravity and prevent itself from roasting out of existence. And those of us living on this earth also need to keep going to prevent an implosion – as long as you are alive you have no choice but to keep going.

And this very likely explains the attraction of the new year’s day.

As evolved humans, we have some pretty crazy ideas about ourselves. We think we can solve all problems and fix everything once and for all. But deep down we realize that we cannot. We know that as soon as we fix one set of problems a new set will come up; as soon as one set of ambitions is achieved, another set is out there waiting; we know that it is our destiny to keep moving forward. And yet we desperately want to believe that we are completing at least some of the things we set out to do.

New year’s eve then, is our fantasy about closure.

One more year done, we say with a satisfied look. It’s completed, it will never come back, we’ve survived it, closed it, put it in a box and written it off. It’s over. There is a certain sense of finality in this which is strangely reassuring – even though it is meaningless because tomorrow we will be faced with exactly the same set of things we had to face in the last year.

Still, whatever the underlying meaning (or lack of meaning), new year’s day is as convenient a point as any for taking a breather. It might not really be a milestone of any real significance, but it is certainly a handy reminder to step back and look at where we are going and how far we have come.

So if you’ll excuse me now I’m going to suspend reality and pretend that I have indeed done something special by seeing thru another year and start wondering about what the next year will be like.

Looking back several years, I’m amazed at how clueless I am on each 1st  January about what the year is likely to bring and how it would unfold. Life has a way of surprising you. Happily though, I’ve been blessed mostly with good surprises. Most of my worries have been unfounded and most things have worked out in the end. And even when they have not been so, the very quality of life that it keeps on moving forward is a blessing as much as it can appear to be a curse. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the troubles, they have a tendency to wash away over time.

So here, finally, is perhaps the most important purpose of the new year. It is a time to let go of all regrets, to wash away all disappointments and mistakes, to cast away all accumulated fears. A time to once again refill our supplies of hope and inspiration and to forge ahead.

Happy new year. Or rather: Lets be Happy in the new year.

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