Monday, January 03, 2011

A New Year Every Day

On January 1, ostensibly New Year's Day, I didn't watch football on the TV, I didn't go out to any parties, I didn't celebrate with a tulip of champagne, I didn't do much of anything. I almost forgot about it, to be honest.

I didn't go out of the house, honestly, because I was freezing. On December 31st here, we'd had two days of warm thaw, it was well above freezing, and so I spent an hour in my garden planting iris, tulip, and lily bulbs for next spring. (I still have some more to plant; in some designated garden spots the ground was still frozen.) The following day, New Year's Day, it was well below freezing and windy again. No snow on the ground anymore because of the thaw, but bitter cold. I bundled in layers but was still cold all day.

After nightfall, I spent some time making art. I made some photographs of candles and the shadows they cast on my Indian bronze sculptures; rather mythic stuff. And I made some more papier-maché art bowls, including one out of origami paper. These are still drying in the sunlight this morning.

I made myself a nice dinner. I watched some of the Doctor Who and the NCIS marathons on TV, while I ate, instead of all the annual celebrations and sports events, which have come to seem hollow to me, the loudest being all the more bread-and-circuses. And I read and wrote in my journals. I did some file organization while half-watching TV, some sorting and filing. I did some chores around the house, including a couple of minor plumbing fixes, although there are more of those to do still.

I celebrate the new year and the turning of the Yearwheel at another time, on All Hallow's, which is an older, more traditionally agrarian New Year's celebration. So we're already two months into the new year as far as I'm concerned.

I don't do New Year's resolutions, and here's why:

1. Every day is a new day, the start of a new year. Every day is another chance to do your life differently. You don't have to save it up for one special day along with everybody else. Start right now. If you’re truly going to make a change in your life, why wait? Start any day, not only on a sanctioned day of ritual new beginnings.

2. Resolutions are a set-up for recycled self-hatred, because everybody always makes impossible resolutions that they can’t live up to—usually for lack of self-discipline—and when they inevitably fail, they have one more opportunity to beat themselves up. Resolutions are a trap. They’re actually rather masochistic, at their extreme edges. They become set-ups for failure and reprobation and self-hatred. Most people set themselves up to fail by choosing resolutions they know they won't be able to meet. Expectations are high, accomplishments are low. So it's another excuse to beat yourself up for failing, for being less than perfect, for demolishing your self-esteem.

Feel free, if you want to. But that's not for me.

I don't think it helps to save up changes you want to make for special days.

I know lots of people love ritual, and love to ritualize their celebrations and changes in their life—for example, bar mitzvahs, big wedding celebrations, graduations, etc.—and ritual is very important both socially and individually. We all make up little rituals to mark changes in our lives, and that's healthy. In fact, we don't really celebrate rites of passage enough in our culture, like the passage from childhood into adulthood; so rituals are usually a good thing.

But why save up personal changes, or rites or passage, to be made on a designated day of ritual new beginnings when you can start with them right now, today, right here? You don't have to wait till Sunday to pray, after all, so why should you have to wait till January 1 and the arbitrary calendar date change, in order to decide to lose those extra 20 pounds, or quit smoking, or whatever? Those can start any day. All it takes is a little self-discipline.

Calendars are arbitrary. New Year's Day has not always been celebrated on January 1, not even in European cultures, much less in other cultures such as ancient China or Japan. If you look at the history of Western civilization, specifically European historical timekeeping, and the various calendars that were in contention till standardization was imposed (historically quite late), you'll overcome the assumption that "there is only one official start to a new year," which is a false and ahistorical assumption. Just because January 1 is the agreed-upon date now and for the past few centuries, don't assume it's always been so. It hasn't. And that's the point: New Year's Day could be celebrated pn any day. It's arbitrary. Every tradition that we take for granted now as an eternal tradition—well, there are no eternal traditions, because everything was invented, at one time or another. Every tradition was made up, once.

So every day could be the New Year. So we might as well act as if it is. And start every day as a new day, a new year. A new chance.

Why should New Year's Day be something special? Unless it's New Year's Day every single day, and every day is special, setting aside one arbitrary day as special just means the rest aren't. Which I don't believe for a moment. Every day is a special day. Every new day is the start of a new year. Every day is a chance to get it right, to do it over, to make those changes, to finish something that you've been avoiding finishing.

So today is New Year's Day, too. And so is tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow. And June 23rd. And April 14th. And October 3rd. They all seem pretty special days to me.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Rachel Fox said...

Happy Tuesday 4th Jan. 2001!
hey, we're taking a N. American road trip this year! Might pass you on the road...
x

4:22 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Sounds great! It's a huge country, though, so who knows? It depends where and when you pass by, but it would be great, absolutely great, to meet up.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Rachel Fox said...

We will be blogging as we go... now and then anyway.
http://viewsfromelsewhere.blogspot.com/
My nearest has got a new camera specially (but he's a beginner). I was showing him your photos just the other day.
x

5:52 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Fantastic!

New cameras mean reading the manual. LOL At least for me. Every time I upgrade my camera there's a learning curve, but it's also very exciting.

I look forward to tracking you via the trip blog. That's a great idea.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Rachel Fox said...

He's read the manual and the camera hasn't even arrived yet! You'd like him - very thorough, good attention to detail. I'm not sure I've ever read a manual...
x

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Traduceri said...

I found your blog only a couple of months back and love it so much, I've been stopping by as often as I can to enjoy your posts and the inspiration you offer! I'm a art-lover too! Hope you have a fantastic 2011!

3:07 PM  

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