Tag Archives: New Year’s

Time in a Bottle

I was sitting outside the other day, nursing the last few moments of a fifteen-minute break from work, just watching the traffic flow by, when my phone vibrated in my hand.

I looked down to see a text message from my wife, letting me know that she had two hours to kill between appointments and wondering if I needed anything.

In the second it took to ponder my response, I felt the huge weight of all the things that I need to get done over the next few weeks suddenly looming over me.

“I need those two hours!  Just pack ‘em up and we’ll use them later.”

I waited a few seconds to see if she’d respond to my little joke, and then I went back to work.

I’d run out of free time.

endlesstime

We have some funny notions about time.

We do our best to borrow and save and steal it, as if it were some tangible resource that we could collect and hold on to.  It is not.

Our scientists and statisticians study and measure it, seeking to quantify it and gain some measure of control.  We have none.

And with increasing frequency, we personify it, assigning to it both motive and malice.

This last year of the Common Era, 2016, seemed for many, to have provided both terrible events and heartbreaking loss in a greater than normal abundance.  The response to this, among the mostly Christian population of North America, has been to dance right past the standard platitudes regarding their own supposedly omnipresent and omnipotent deity and his grand plan for everything, and instead to spew their frustrations upon the year itself.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I pointed out how woefully out of practice this society is when it comes to idolatry.  There could be no better example than that of these last few months, wherein we’ve once again ignored a whole army of perfectly serviceable gods and goddesses, preferring instead to invent a new one upon which to vent our collective spleen.

The road back to Polytheism will surely be filled with unexpected twists and turns, but this…,

People got mad at a unit of time, and a few nights ago they celebrated its death – with the same fervor I’d expect in a blood sacrifice.

Folks, please.

Those who Spin and Measure and Cut must be rocking with laughter.

thefates

To the vast disappointment of all the numerologists in the crowd, the numbers are completely arbitrary and don’t mean anything.

Which year was it, that was our dread enemy?

AD 2016 is the popular choice – but that’s what exactly, two thousand and sixteen years after the birth of a fellow who may have been the hebrew messiah, or entirely fictional, or possibly both.  And what scant evidence we have suggests that we missed the mark by no less than a half a dozen years.  So that number is pretty meaningless.

There are other suspects, but they’re not much better…,

It has been 2769 years since the Founding or Rome in the old calendar.  But that date was also selected several hundred years after the fact and is an extremely rough approximation, so…,

Maybe we should blame 4714 of the Chinese Calendar.  The Year of the Monkey sounds like something given to causing a lot of trouble.  But if that’s the case we’d better hold onto our hats, because we are still under the gun until January 28th when the Rooster takes over.

And I suppose old 5776 on the Hebrew Calendar could be a likely enough suspect.  But this one is supposed to be counting up from the year the following the Creation of the Heavens and the Earth as depicted in the Book of Genesis, which I find pretty weird, seeing as I’ve personally visited ruins that are at least that old and geologic sites that are tens of millions of years older.

The year is a figment of our imagination.  It is a crude attempt to force time into a bottle.

But the truth is that Two-Thousand and Sixteen didn’t kill anyone, didn’t elect anyone, didn’t bomb anyone, or starve them, or spray them with rubber bullets…,

We did those things.

And we will keep doing them until we learn not to.

And if our past is any guide to the future, the numbers on the calendar won’t make a damn bit of difference along the way.

We lost some amazing people recently, Carrie and David and Prince and what seems like a thousand others, bright and powerful souls who touched our lives.  Our hearts ache with their passing, but there is no need to cast blame.  The pain we suffer is the sacrifice we offer up for the privilege of knowing them.  And my gods, the price is worth it, because I can’t imagine what our lives might have been like without them!

Nothing ended at midnight on December 31st.  Nothing began at 12:01am.

The Earth continues upon its path around the Sun.

The Fates work diligently upon the threads of our lives.

And time keeps moving.

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Filed under Culture, Death, Holidays, Modern Life, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Odds and Evens

So the last few days of December are trickling past and with them comes the close of yet another year.  A certain anticipation seems to have wafted in with the breeze, a feeling that we should brush past these last few days as if they were mere formality.

“The old year is dead,” whispers the collective consciousness, “move on already.”

And while I am as anxious as anyone for this year to be done, I am of a miserly sort, when it come to time.  Each second is precious, not to be wasted or cast aside unused.

And so, some final thoughts and observations on the year nearly past.

  • Violence begets violence.  Any high ideals you may harbor about the enlightened nature of the human animal, or our special place in some grand cosmic design, or the imagined utopias of the future, should be tempered by the fact that we’ve been walking this globe for something on the order of three million years, and have yet to learn this most fundamental truth.
  • Family may be our greatest strength, but it is without question our greatest weakness.  If you really want to hurt a man, give him a family and then take it away from him.  Loners of the world – UNITE!  (but only at a safe distance)
  • Yes, I know, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and again while expecting different results.  The thing is though, sometimes crazy shit happens!
  • It is neither a landslide nor a mandate if almost no one came out to vote.  If the biggest issue that got your candidate into office is apathy, you may want to keep the crowing to a minimum.
  • It is a lot more fun to have a secret than to be a secret.
  • When I went to the doctor last week, I had to fill out a sheet stating that I had not been exposed to Ebola.  How many actual cases have we had in the U.S.?  Did you know that there are between 10 and 15 cases of Bubonic Plague in the United States every year?  Strange that I didn’t have to fill out a sheet for that.
  • If you are insulted by someone wishing you “happy holidays” the problem is not with the world, or political-correctness, but with your own teeny-tiny little heart.  I’ve never had so many genuine salutations returned with an overly emphatic “Merry CHRISTmas!”.  Seriously folks, I’m just not feeling the ‘merry’ part when it’s delivered through bared teeth.
  • If you don’t want anyone to see something, keep it off any sort of electronic media.
  • This week we’re gonna spend millions of dollars celebrating a completely arbitrary date.  I mean, two-thousand and fifteen years since what, exactly?  There are dozens of different calendrical systems that are used throughout the world, and most of them are counting up (or sometimes down) from some particular historical or astronomical event.  The one calendar that is cross-culturally agreed upon by everyone is based on exactly nothing.  And it’s not even a particularly accurate calendar.  This to me says a lot about any system of belief (and really, what IS a calendar if not a system of belief) that is agreed upon by everyone.
  • That being said, I like odd numbered years better than even ones.  I know that’s madness, because the numbers are completely arbitrary, but I really do seem to do better on odd-numbered years.  Which is not to say that this has been a BAD year.  But it has been a year of great transition for me, with both extreme highs and lows.  I’d like to think the coming year will pass more smoothly, but only time will tell.
  • Joe Cocker could sing ‘em like no one else.  Lauren Bacall owned the screen even when Bogart was in the frame.  Harold Ramis gave us the ‘Ghostbusters’ as well as my favorite film of all – ‘Groundhog Day’.  Casey Kasem was always ready with a ‘long-distance dedication’.  Mickey Rooney will always be young Mi Taylor from ‘National Velvet’.  And no one has ever made me laugh (and cry) like Robin Williams.

And that about wraps things up for me.

May the blessings of the gods be on you all and I’ll meet you back here in the new year!

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Filed under Culture, Family, Holidays, Modern Life, Traditions

Thirteen Down

It never stops, the turning of the year.

The great wheel rolls ever on and on, and we roll with it.

Only sometimes, it may seem as if we are running to catch up.

And on some days, we may stumble and be ground underneath.

A year ago, at this time, I was pondering the age old tradition of the ‘New Year’s Resolution’.  I suggested that there was more to it than simply making some trite pledge, lacking meaning or consequence.

“A resolution is more than a vow to be made and broken, it is the answer to a question asked.  Consider the last three hundred and sixty five days to have been a puzzle or a test.  How did you resolve it?”

Knowing how to approach the coming year is as much about looking back as it is forward.  And so here I am, looking for a glimpse of the future in the dying embers of the year gone by.

What have I learned?

Well, for one thing, I’ve learned that writing your thoughts down is important.

I’ve never been one for journaling, and I realize now that far too many years have slipped past me, their many lessons obscured by hazy memory.

Writing things down, in the moment allows us to gain multiple perspectives, that might be otherwise denied us.  I know how I feel about the thing now, but knowing how I felt about it six months ago, or a year, or longer, gives us a much more rounded perspective, than that available through simple hindsight.

The truly galling thing here, is that I knew this already, I just didn’t think it was important.

—Idiot!—

Okay, so keep writing.  Good.  Check!

What else?

Well, even more important to me than knowing that I should write, is the discovery that I can.

I’ve made it twenty-one months without missing a weekly post (although there were a few weeks that came really close).  To my complete astonishment, I’ve put down something over 83,000 words over the course of those months, many touching on topics and experiences I would never have believed myself willing to share in a public forum before now.

It’s no wonder my girlfriend calls this blog “the other woman.”

It consumes great swaths of my time and attention.

Perhaps too much.

There are lessons to be learned there as well, perhaps.

Just a few of the many stops we've made along the way in 2013.

Just a few of the many stops we’ve made along the way in 2013. It’s been a busy year!

What more have I learned in the past year?

I’ve learned that sometimes, the most privileged are the most likely to feel that they are persecuted against.  I’ve learned, once again, that the face in the mirror may reflect more truth than we ever wanted to see.  I’ve learned that both grief and joy can live in the memory of a Dream, that people have largely forgotten what words like “sacrifice” and “belief” really mean, and that today’s plans are tomorrow’s ghost stories.  I’ve learned that some people look for their god in a book, and others seek their gods among pop-culture heroes, but more and more, I am able to find mine by just opening myself up to the world around me.

Another important lesson I’ll take away from this year: Don’t jump to conclusions!

Back in March I wrote a post about the newly minted Pope Francis which, in light of his words and actions over the intervening months, may have been a bit more cynical than necessary.  Now, I’m not issuing a retraction by any stretch.  I’m still more than a little suspicious of those who put him in power, and dubious as to his ability to affect any real change in the Catholic Church.  He and I believe in VERY different things, but still, I must give the man credit for pissing off the cultural conservatives at almost every opportunity.  A job well done, sir!

I don't think I would have chosen Pope Francis as Person of the Year.  I'd have said Edward Snowden has made more of a genuine impact on the global scene.  It will be quite some time before we know if the Pontiff can make any lasting difference.

I don’t think I would have chosen Pope Francis as Person of the Year. I’d have said Edward Snowden has made more of a genuine impact on the global scene. It will be quite some time before we know if the Pontiff can make any lasting difference.

And so we stand now over the grave of 2013, shovels in hand, taking one final look at the year that was, before we start the hard work of filling in the hole.  Each scoop of soil we spill, we will pull from a new plot of unbroken earth just to the side of this yawning pit.  We cover over the old year even as we dig a grave for the new.

And such is, as it has ever been.

The wheel turns and we turn with it.

Two-Thousand and Thirteen is down.

May Fourteen find us all the wiser.

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Holidays, Interfaith, Modern Life, Philosophy, Religion, Spiritual Journey, Traditions

A Question of Resolution

What does a promise mean?

When we make a pledge to undertake some action, whether that pledge is made to ourselves or to another, do we not feel bound by the words we speak?  Or has our increasingly casual relationship with language diminished the hold which our own words have over us?  Words are, as they have always been, little puzzles of meaning, intent and context, which we seem ever more inclined to ignore as we make our merry way through life.

Traditionally, we have invested certain words with greater power or importance.  Some few take on special meaning under certain circumstances or at a particular time of the year.

Resolutions

Resolution: as we tick away the final hours of December, this word seems to take on a special prominence.  The expectation, as we all know, is that we will ‘resolve’ to make some change in our habits in the coming year.  The dawning of a new year would seem a natural time in the turning of the great wheel to introduce some change into our lives and when we make these year-end promises, we are taking part in a tradition that stretches back into the very beginnings of human history.  What we today think of as the New Year’s Resolution, was already ages old when the Norse clansmen swore great oaths to their gods and ancestors in the deepening hours of Yule.  The tradition may have begun, as written accounts would suggest, in ancient Babylon, but I rather suspect it predates the written word.

This yearly ritual links us to the traditions and beliefs of our most distant ancestors, and yet, when I hear people speak of their New Year’s Resolutions, they often seem to be such trivial things, hardly worth attaching to such a nobel sounding word.  In the coming year, we will strive to eat better or exercise more.  Maybe we will try to be more consistent about recycling or make an effort to call our distant relations more often.

More often than not, there is the clear expectation that we will break our resolutions at some point in the coming year.  We assume that we will fail in our promise, anticipating the moment when we can abandon these self imposed constraints for yet another year and return to business as normal.

Is it possible that people simply don’t understand the word?  Resolution is a big word after all, and in a culture that trivializes language, its many meanings may have become lost or confused.

While in the context of the New Year, we may resolve to move forward with some course of action, the best way to do that may be to take a good look at the year now past.  Let us, for a moment then, consider not the promises to be made but rather the culmination of the year’s events.

Consider the last three hundred and sixty five days to have been a puzzle or a test.  How did you resolve it?

A resolution is more than a vow to be made and broken, it is the answer to a question asked.  In this case, that question is 2012.  What was the result of this year?  How did it affect you, your family and friends, or even the world as a whole?

How can we hope to know what change we should introduce into our lives if we are not considering the year now past?

Is there a single quantifiable answer to that question?  I think, not.

The outcome of the past year is an aggregate of a million smaller questions and answers which bring us to yet another of the interrelated meanings for the word Resolution.

As you read this blog you are looking at a screen on which millions of tiny dots of varying color and brightness come together to resolve the words and pictures you see.  When we speak of Resolution from this frame of reference we are discussing the number of dots (or pixels to be more precise) which come together to form the images you see.  The higher the resolution, the sharper the image and the more clearly you can see and understand what it is you are looking at.

In the same way, looking back at the last year is not simply a matter of examining a singular conclusion to the events of that year because that result is derived from the amalgam of every decision we made during that span.  The more aware of ourselves we are, the more awake to the choices we have made and the consequences following therefrom, the higher the resolution of our perception and the better equipped we are to make necessary changes going forward.

Dictum meum pactum

My word is my bond.

Once upon a time, the words we spoke were held as a reflection of the person speaking them.  To knowingly break a promise would reveal you as faithless and untrustworthy.

To whom do we make New Year’s Resolutions in this day and age?  We do not typically make them to one another.  So to whom then?  Our gods?  Our selves?

And if we cannot keep a promise we made to our own selves how can we ever feel we are deserving of the trust of another?  Or is that not something we concern ourselves with any longer?

If you choose to make a New Year’s Resolution this year, make it with awareness of the full meaning and importance of the word.  Look not just forward but back and with an eye to the little decisions that brought us to where we are.

Embracing that kind of self-awareness may be resolution enough.

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