A week ago the Gregorian calendar ushered in yet another New Year, numbered 2014 by (more or less) international convention. For while the vast majority of nations which have been brought under the West-instigated global framework follow this chronology, a few other traditional systems reckon their New Years by other conventions, all anchored to some religion or local convention or other, and none having any point of reference that is culture-invariant.
The sun, fixed in the solar system relative to the planets, moves from our slanted terrestrial perspective between the tropics as our planet zooms in the void of solar space along its elliptical orbit, coming ever so slightly closer to the central star during what denizens of the Northern Hemisphere experience as winter, utterly indifferent to the celebrations of earthlings now and again. Countries and capitals sometimes compete with fireworks in the jubilation of this astronomical non-event
People open bottles of champagne and other beverages to mark this occasion which is devoid of any cosmic significance, make resolutions in hopes of changing their behavior and list to-be-achieved goals before the last date of 2014 is dumped into the black hole of irretrievable history. We wish one another health and happiness: vestige of the ancient magical belief by which words and gestures would modify events in the human-centered world.
I too like to engage in such wishful thinking. Wouldn’t be great, I tell myself, if, at long last, this would be the year when peace dawns in the middle east; terrorists give up their modus operandi; dictators are dethroned; the wealthy resolve to give a significant percentage of their resources for the benefit of the less fortunate members of our species; arch-enemies extend hands of mutual friendship; nations stop snooping; religions recognize that none of them is better or worse than a sister religion in their attempts to visualize God and cease persuading or forcing others as to the truth-content of one’s own faith-system; poachers stop killing helpless animals in the wilderness; superstitions are recognized for what they are and relegated to the laughable relics of human beliefs; bigots, fanatics, and extremists, whether religious or secular, calm down or are exterminated in as humane a fashion as possible; the corrupt are cleansed and condemned for good; chocolates are available everywhere free-of-cost; and such other improbabilities as all wish and none can bring about come to pass!
I know too well that none of this will come to pass this year or in the next, or even in the next five decades to come. But it is soothing to engage in their possibility at least in the first week of a new year, and that’s why I indulge in such thoughts.
January 6, 2014