Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Life!

In almost exactly twenty-four hours, I will perform -- quite literally perform -- my yearly hypocrisy. I will sit on a stage and play the drums in a band for New Year's Eve. When the clock strikes midnight, I will play "Auld Lang Syne" as if I give a flying cupcake. In reality, I have never cared about New Year's Eve, nor about many other markers of time and transition.

Others see the new year as a new beginning and they see a reason to mark graduation from kindergarten through college. But I simply am not, and never have been, moved by these things. I'm not sure why. I do think maybe we should not place so much importance in transitions and time-markers, especially regarding a goal that just about everyone achieves, like high school graduation. (If I ever win a Nobel prize for literature, there may be a party in order . . .)

In terms of graduation, it makes me ill to hear speakers tell students that "high school was the best four years of your lives." I make a point of telling the seniors I teach that this must not be true. If it were true, I would volunteer to stand outside the doors after graduation with a gun so each of them can end it all. I mean, if that marks the end of he best four years, what's the point of carrying on? We overblow this stuff to the point of comedy. (Psst -- between you and me, the birth of my sons; my wedding -- things like that -- were a little cooler than even the coolest of pep-rallies. I know it sounds crazy . . .)

As for New Year's, shouldn't a new beginning be available on March 3rd? Or on October 14th? And shouldn't change run into the forward stretch of constant time, not necessarily kept track of in consecutive weeks, days -- years? Aren't New Year's resolutions notorious for being broken, anyway?

New Year's serves as a marker for people, just as graduations do. But evaluating our status at stone-chiseled intervals seems foolish to me. It can only lead to either disappointment or false confidence. (See Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days.") There's nothing as frightening, to me, as hearing someone say: "Last year was a mess. I hope this one is better." Yikes! That's one hell of a lump evaluation leading into one hell of a tall order.

I say, stop saying: "This year, I . . ." and start saying "From now on, I  . . . " Stop saying, "Today, I have earned my master's degree" and start saying "Today is another day in a lifetime of learning." (For the record, I still don't regret having not attended either my BA or my master's graduation ceremonies, regardless of how many times people told me I would.)

In short, I wish you not a happy new year, but a happy lifetime full of constant improvement, constant peace and constant determination to live better in whichever way you desire. I wish you the peace of knowing that new beginnings are not marked in new days, new weeks or new years, but that they come as quickly as the next thought in the stream of your consciousness.

If you celebrate on New Year's Eve, celebrate the moments with friends and the joy of, well, celebrating. Your life is too much of a raging river to be chopped into sections. Flow on and wash away the dams, my friend.


  1. I haven't gone to the gym in over a year, and I decided not to go today because tomorrow seemed a more fitting day to start being responsible. But this post peeled the facade of logic off my laziness.

    Thankfully, though, I'm fine with laziness however it comes, so I'm still not going.

    You're absolutely right because of examples such as this one--all the "New Year's Resolution" does is give you an excuse not to change on the 31st.

    "Never put off til tomorrow what you can accomplish today." Jefferson said something along those lines.

    I'll look it up...tomorrow.

  2. Ah -- why not wait until Monday? Rest up a little.

  3. Bravo, Chris. I couldn't agree more. It's all about marketing anyway. Every holiday we observe is now designed to imrpove the economy.
    Here are some astute thoughts about resolutions from a blog I follow called Sarahs Booksusedand rare.

    "New Year's Eve finds me once again considering that thorny old business of resolutions. In the Life of Johnson (p.409), Boswell quotes Samuel Johnson's Prayers and Meditations (p.101) concerning the efficacy of the making of resolutions. I'm afraid Johnson didn't hold much stock in the idea:

    "Every man naturally persuades himself that he can keep his resolutions, nor is he convinced of his imbecility but by length of time and frequency of experiment.... They...whom frequent failures have made desperate, cease to form resolutions; and they who are become cunning, do not tell them.... He who may live as he will, seldom lives long in the observation of his own rules."

    After taking a break from the Life to read Boswell's London Journal 1762-1763 this week (McGraw-Hill 1950), and finding that, like Pepys, Boswell carried around a little notebook in which he jotted reminders to himself to be good and moral, amidst the events of the day, and then observing Boswell's own riotously scandalous behavior almost immediately afterward, I tend to agree with Johnson. Don't make resolutions. They won't change your life; in fact, they may only serve to convince you of your own imbecility. Instead, be good, and do some gentle sinning too, year-round. Read more racy books. Eat more pie. Be a human being. Whoever makes the rules around here, if there is such a one, will surely assist us in sorting it all out at some point."

  4. Excellent stuff, Lincoln -- thanks for sharing. I especially like the idea of eating more pie! In the end, the wisdom of the wise always seems to come down to that wonderful thing: balance --"be good and do some gentle sinning."