My father always used to say the same thing every New Year’s – “Out with the old and in with the new”. I never quite understood why, since he never threw anything away (we didn’t have a whole lot to discard), nor did he go out and buy anything new. I don’t think he meant it in a philosophical sense, either. As far as our home life was concerned, little changed from one year to the next except, of course, that we all got a little older. Nothing happened New Year’s day, or in the days that followed, that made the new year any different than the old one. The major consequence of the calendar changing, it seemed to me, was that you had to start remembering that the last digit of the year had changed. You know, instead of putting January 1, 1962 on a document or check that you wrote, you had to remember to write January 1, 1963. Aside from that, no big deal when it came to New Year’s Day. A few football games on TV, a day off, and you moved on.
So I’ve never understood why people spend time thinking about what they’re going to do differently in the new year. Or why TV news shows spend hours talking about the previous year’s highlights (or in most cases, the “lowlights”), and then go on to predict what they think might happen in the next 12 months. Or why anybody bothers to make resolutions or lists of things to do in the “new” year. Or why anyone in their right mind would think for a minute that by doing so things will get better (or even be different) than they are now. Just because the date changes.
Yeah, I know. It’s the old idea of renewal. Starting over. Getting a fresh start. Rededicating yourself to doing all those things that are “good” for you. Like losing weight or getting more exercise or being a better parent or – gasp – going out and taking more photographs. Well chances are it ain’t gonna happen. Not this year and not next year, either.
This year, of course, New Year’s is even worse. We’re on the verge of a whole friggin’ new decade, for heaven’s sake. It won’t be as traumatic as the beginning of the last one, certainly, when we all had to worry about Y2K and computers crashing everywhere. Still, people are coming up with plenty of stuff to fret about. Global warming. Genocide. War. Jobs. Not to mention the possible end of the world in 2012 because the Mayan calendar ends then, or Sarah Palin being elected president (I didn’t say that everything people are going to worry about was serious). Actually, I take that back. Sarah Palin being elected president would be serious. But enough of this doom and gloom.
The good news is that change comes whether we want it to or not. The really good news is that most of the time the changes that really mean something are completely unpredictable. We never see them coming. Maybe we should, but we don’t. We’re usually preoccupied with trying to control what we think should happen next. Which inevitably blinds us to what’s really going to happen. We all have this ridiculous notion that we control our own destiny. That we have “free will”. Horse Pucky. It’s an illusion. If you really believe in free will, I have a bridge that crosses nearby Irondequoit Bay that I’d like to sell you.
Albert Einstein once said,
“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper”.
I don’t know about you, but if Einstein said it, it’s good enough for me. I have no idea who (or what) that “invisible piper” is, but after 6 decades of life I have no doubt that there is, in fact, a “mysterious tune”. Mine is different than yours, but it’s real. And it won’t take “no” for an answer.
So forget the lists and the resolutions. All you really have to do is listen.