Friday, December 31, 2010
New Year’s Thoughts
Improbable as it seems for a group of mostly unconnected spirits, we Michiana Chroniclers do march, well at least meander, in something of a loose formation. We have a schedule. When I last looked at that schedule, I saw with genuine excitement that I was on the roster for New Year’s Eve; I was going to be the last one up to bat for 2010! There are a couple of reasons for my reactions to that: one, the date provides me the opportunity to be reflective, philosophical, profound, festive or even maudlin, and two, I thought of this opportunity in a sports metaphor that wasn’t even basketball-related. As one of the most un-athletic, the kid-picked-last-for-the-team, because if I did do anything memorable it probably only would be to sustain some strange injury due to total lack of ability, a baseball phrase had popped into my head when I saw that I was scheduled for New Year’s Eve. Astonishing!
If you have any age on you, you probably have experienced New Year’s Eves alone with Dick Clark on the television, as part of a couple, in a group at a social gathering, or maybe even asleep. There is the Bill Vaughn quote, “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to,” that sums up the time factor of the seeing-New-Year-in experience. (Sometimes I nap during the day as “training” for the big event.) With or without our observation and/or celebration though, the New Year rolls around—annually —so far.
Maybe you are a resolution-maker, determined to turn the page and really try for a clean start with no cross-outs or blots. That’s an approach and it should not be inhibited by history, individual or aggregate, or by Mark Twain’s assessment: “New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
The coming of the New Year provides ambiguity. It’s the Beatles, “You say goodbye and I say hello” syndrome. Again, Bill Vaughn, “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” There is a beginning, but there is an ending as well: no surprise that a tear or two is not untraditional.
New Year provides that same bittersweet feeling that we get at a wedding, a graduation or a birthday. Our histories and observations make us conflicted by the event.
Yet, we toast the New Year. That’s rather optimistic, isn’t it? The implications are positive and upbeat: a greeting rather than a groan. As Oprah Winfrey said in a spirit of optimism, “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.” Interesting though, isn’t it, that alcohol-consumption has become enmeshed in our observance? My cousin, David, told me that he never goes out on New Year’s Eve, because it’s too dangerous. He referred to it as “amateur night” for drunk drivers. That’s not a modern twist on the event either; already in 1788 when that party-animal, Robert Burns, composed Auld Lang Syne, he raised “a cup of kindness.” And though we traditionally sing his words at the coming of the year, look at the lyrics. They’re really more of a farewell than a greeting. Clearly, we’re traditionally inebriated as well as traditionally conflicted about the New Year.
What to make of all this? Charles Lamb said “New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday.” That being the case, it seems as though some action is required. Just keep marching along much as we have done? Hit one out of the ballpark? Get plenty of sleep? Resolve to shape up and do better? Party hearty? But then again, sometimes inaction is the wisest course . . .
T.S. Eliot, more succinct than I, had a summation of this conundrum, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
Raising a glass to you and to endings and beginnings.