By Dave Hood
“As years passed away I have formed the habit of looking back upon that former self as upon another person, the remembrance of whose emotions has been a solace in adversity and added zest to the enjoyment of prosperity.” -Simon Newcomb.
It’s New Year’s Eve. The old year is taking the stage for one last performance. In a short time, the scholars will write 2014 into the history books. Writer Hamilton Wright Mabie described the occasion as: “New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.” Benjamin Franklin once said, be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” Writer Mark Twain wrote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”What is the point of New Year’s Eve and the beginning of a New Year?
For many people, the forthcoming new year is a time of reflection. Many read the articles in magazines and papers, summarizing the top news stories. Every year has its conflicts, its shocks, and its disbeliefs. In 2014, we learned about the scourge of Ebola, Putin’s adventurism into the Ukraine, the beheadings by the terrorists group ISIS, the self-inflicted death by entertainer Robin Williams, the alleged debauchery of popular talk show host Jian Ghomeshi, the attack on Parliament by a deranged lunatic. Many have also pondered the highs, such as good health, a new marriage, promotion at work, and the lows, perhaps a diagnosis of serious illness, job loss, end of a marriage, death of a loved one.
Many people also use the end of year to discover what the media considers the most worthy popular culture to spend one’s leisure time enjoying— the best films, best music, best books, and best shows on television. For instance, Entertainment Weekly, in their December 12th edition, identifies the top movies, show, albums, and books for 2014. Jimmy Fallon, who is the new host of The Tonight Show, was named “Entertainer of the Year.” Some film critics have identified Boyhood, Bird Man, The Imitation, and The Grand Budapest Hotel as the best movies to purchase a ticket to watch at the cinema. Wired magazine writes on their website: “Long the populist, less-elegant cousin of film, in the last few years television has become the place to watch the most daring, smart, prestigious shows out there.”Some of the outstanding television shows include The Fall, True Detective, Olive Kitteridge, and The Affair, which has received a 94% rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes. I enjoy reading and learning from the end of year reviews. It’s a way to organize the “best of” as well as discover what I’ve missed. Often, I will plan to experience the pop culture I’ve missed—perhaps seeing the Grand Budapest Hotel or reading physician Atul Gawande’s book, “Being Mortal.”
The ending of a year is a time to set resolutions for next year. Many people scrawl down New Year’s resolutions, often the same intentions as last year. Popular goals include losing weight, quitting smoking, getting physically fit. Despite the good intentions, many fail to achieve their resolutions. Busyness, lack of motivation, distraction—the unwillingness to put the time and effort into changing a bad habit sabotages most people’s good intentions. Anais Nin, a writer, once said, “I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.”
I believe in setting S.M.A.R.T goals, which give the year focus. S.M.A.R.T goals are specific with lots of detail, measurable by some criteria, attainable with skill and time and resources, realistic in that they are what I desire to achieve, and timely—with a deadline, to be achieved in the next 12 months. I have jotted a few resolutions. For instance, I have made it my intention to study modern and contemporary art and to draw and paint in 2015. I have also decided to take up the practise of yoga.
New Year’s Eve is an occasion to celebrate for many people, who will begin their evening with a delicious meal, perhaps a feast of surf n turf at their favorite restaurant, then trek to some bar or hall where there’s music and dance. They’ll imbibe until intoxicated, dance until fatigued, engage in friendly conversation, share a few jokes and laughs. When the clock nears twelve, and the old year departs the stage, they’ll stand, raise their glass to a friend, and yell “Happy New Year’s!, as 2015 takes the stage for the first time. Tomorrow, many will wake up with a hangover, as if they have the flu. For others, New Year’s Eve is just another ordinary day, or an excuse to get tanked, or a reminder of their loneliness, or their experience of emptiness, or time of grieving—a waste of time. I believe that New Year’s ought to be celebrated. It is celebration that gives life meaning and purpose, that interrupts the banality of our existence.
Humorist writer, Mark Twain, wrote this about the year-end reflections, resolutions and celebration: “Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.”
New Year’s is an ending, and with each ending there are opportunities for new beginnings. Poet T.S. Eliot wrote: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
I believe the new year offers a fresh new start, to set goals, such as becoming a splendid writer, to conquer bad habits, to improve one’s lifestyle, to elevate well-being, to become happier, to achieve one’s dreams, to write some wrongs, to live with hope, to inject our lives with zest, to embrace peace, to live a spiritual life, to improve well-being and life satisfaction.
Despite the unknowable future, I embrace these words—“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’. (Alfred Tennyson)
Despite the unknowable future, I’ve promised myself to live my daily life “Carpe Diem.” Life is either an adventure or nothing at all. The new year offers a fresh beginning for a new journey with hope as your comfort into the unknown.