Can I wish you a happy new year and also call bullshit on ‘new year’?
Wtf is a ‘new year’ anyway? It’s a way to mark both the passage of time and its cyclical nature. There are many ways to do that and today is just one. The year 2023 is a Western Christian formulation that, like so many Western Christian formulations, has been globalized into a seemingly secular standard. Let’s appreciate that humanity has understood the cyclical passage of time in many ways. The Chinese new year won’t happen for another three weeks. The Hindu and Muslim march of days happens by the lunar cycle, not the solar one. Many cultures measure by nature’s rhythm of equinoxes and solstices. Actually, the Gregorian calendar isn’t even the most accurate for nature: it loses 0.25 days per year, ergo a leap year every four years, whereas the Mayans lost just 0.0001 days annually.
But the Gregorian marking of time — which itself, according to physicists, either exists in toto (e.g., per Albert Einstein) or not at all (e.g. per Carlo Rovelli) — has the power of worldwide momentum to pull us into reflections and intentions. We can use the opportunity to be mindfully empowered. Or, we may give undue weight to our experience of New Year’s Eve/Day as auspicious or not, allowing that to disempower us.
I want to remind us that no matter what kind of new year we had, it doesn’t portend anything for the year ahead. We may have completely failed to start as we wanted or have hit it out of the park — neither may matter a whit in the face of the deepening climate crisis. Our best intentions and worst failures are nested in widening circles of community and system. Every culture’s understanding of time intersects with its understanding of existence, relationship, nature, etc. The Western intersection is linear and individual but that’s just one construction among many and may not be the most accurate — like this calendar.
The cyclical passage of time will happen again on January 2 and April 12 and every other day. We can always reflect and intend. If we had a great day today, we can celebrate that, then set it aside and begin anew tomorrow. If we had a shitty day today, we can grieve that, then set it aside and begin anew tomorrow. That’s what we can do any time, not just at the Gregorian command: start again. Each day is an unknown. Each is the first day of a year. Not loving your year? Start a new one tomorrow.
I had a really good day walking in the (semi) wild. I spoke with some loved ones and pet the fur/feathers of other loved ones. I celebrated the recent hard rain on my drought-blighted land and also worried over its effects. It was less a good New Year’s Day and more just a really good day. For my part, this year I intend to post more essays. And if I hadn’t managed it this year today, I’d start again next year tomorrow.