What is time? Here we have a question that has baffled philosophers and scientists since, well . . . since time immemorial. We measure it in numerous ways and, frankly, we’re not terribly interested in any of them other than the calendar at this point. For our intents and purposes, then, time is measured in days; by the rotation of the Earth 360° on its axis and by years; the compilation of 365.25 days as the Earth completes one orbit around our home star, Sol.
To be even less precise, we’re actually only interested in a simple calendar, whether it’s an application running on a computer or a slick-paper collection of rare and beautiful pictures of well-tended gardens and ornate architecture situated in the world’s most exotic locations. The Gregorian calendar, actually, will suit us.
Furthermore, let’s confine our study of time to – essentially – one day; New Year’s day. The first of January, regardless of the year. This is, perhaps, the only day we celebrate that is entirely arbitrary; marking a line in the continuum we call time that isn’t tied to any particular event we’ve experienced or chosen to memorialize for the purpose of not working and having a bar-b-que, stuffing our faces with rich, fattening food, or conducting a car, bed, or linen sale.
Take for instance President’s Day. On second thought, and upon a little research, let’s not take President’s Day as it is a convoluted mess made somewhat abstruse by it’s being a combination of Federal and State observances of the birthdays of George Washington and, sometimes, Abraham Lincoln, and the occasional desire to commemorate the existence of all Presidents (past, present and, presumably, future) of the United States of America.
How about a holiday that marks a specific date on the calendar and hasn’t been moved around yet for the purposes of creating a three-day weekend and making working stiffs and the travel industry happy? How about the most venerable of them all, the Fourth of July – Independence Day? We celebrate this holiday on the same date of the year, regardless of the day on which it falls. Something happened on that day and, each year – relative to the rest of the days on our calendar – we celebrate that thing; that one thing common to us all.
The new year, however, is merely the day on which we’ve – somewhat arbitrarily – determined everything rewinds and starts over. Never mind that every four years we need to tack another day onto it, which we’ve chosen to do in February, the only month short enough to make room for another day without making the other months jealous. It is, for many, the beginning of a new life; a chance to start over and jettison old habits like a layer of useless, molted skin.
There is one thing – one time independent thing – the new year and its joyously celebrated recurrence is inextricably associated with; the New Year’s resolution. That “time-honored” tradition indulged in by an incredibly large portion of the world’s population. The moment when old habits die with a glass of champagne, the singing of Auld Lang Syne, raucous noisemaking, and the occasional over amorous kiss.
What, we may ask, is a New Year’s resolution and why is it so bound up in this arbitrary date that marks the completion of a year’s journey around the Sun? Why do people not make these changes and affirmations when the need for them becomes apparent? Why wait for one, somewhat otherwise inauspicious date to sever ties to the past and, Phoenix-like, rise to embrace a bright, new future? Especially when, usually no later than mid-February, the Phoenix perversely transforms into Icarus and plummets to the Earth, there to lie – seemingly lifeless – until another December 31st rolls around.
Perhaps most people find it necessary to draw a figurative line in the sand of their personal hourglass at the moment we mark the numerical change from one year to the next. Perhaps it eases our ability to put bad habits and worthless pursuits behind us; to bury them in the mists of time and move toward a brighter, more promising future. Perhaps we just like to kid ourselves – like setting our alarm clocks to read 10 minutes fast in order to ensure we arise in time to begin a new day. Who knows?
So here’s my resolution, but it isn’t a New Year’s resolution as I reaffirm it many times a year. When it becomes obvious something I’m doing isn’t working all that well, I’m going to endeavor to change direction as quickly as possible. I’m going to allow my creativity the freedom to find better ways to proceed and I’m going to look for innovative paths to make those better ways pay off in a richer, fuller life for me and my family.
How about you? Do you wait until the new year to change your evil ways, or do you move on down the road as soon as practicable once you realize a change is in order? Either way, I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013 et seq., ad infinitum.