It’s an arbitrary day to declare the start of a new year, if you ask me. Aren’t measurements of time ultimately tied to astronomical events? A day is one revolution of our planet; a year is one orbit of the earth around the sun; a month, while bastardized, has its origins in the phases of the moon. So why doesn’t the new year begin with a celestial event, like the spring equinox? What better celebration of “new” than the onset of spring? Sorry, I digress.
January derives its name from the old Roman god Janus, who you will recall, had the two faces, one looking forward and one backward. So, metaphorically speaking, New Year’s is when we are supposed to reflect on what has occurred in the past, and look forward to our hopes for the future.
Typically, we pick out a few things that we control, add it to our list of hopes and call those our New Year’s resolutions. The more general a resolution, the less chance you’ll have to feel guilty about not abiding it. For instance, if I resolved to “lose 25 pounds,” that’s pretty specific, and so when I don’t do it, I’ll feel guilty. However, if I would resolve something a little more squishy, like “get more exercise,” well, that’s got a whole lot more maneuvering room. Exercise may mean “cardiovascular workout involving sweat on a treadmill” to you; to me, it means “fishing.”
Unfortunately, I don’t get a whole lot of philosophical clarity about my hopes for the future by looking back at 2011. In fact, I think 2011 was the antithesis of clarity; it was one of the most unpredictable years I can recall. Who saw that a protest in Tunisia was going to be the first domino in a wave of political reform across the Mideast? A horrific tsunami in northern Japan proved the nuclear naysayers at least partially right; it isn’t possible to design a nuclear power plant to be safe under every circumstance.
The U.S. government so mismanaged the entire budget process – receiving too little and spending too much – that they convinced S&P to lower our credit rating, an irony right up there with a police station being robbed or a fire station burning to the ground.
Not to be outdone in incompetence, the governments of Greece and Italy took the euro to the brink of collapse. Between the Gosselins, the Montags, the Kardashians and the crew from “Jersey Shore,” reality TV demonstrated forcefully that there is nothing remotely “real” about it.
Every Republican who declared their candidacy for president was the frontrunner for at least a day, as desperation mounted to find a Republican candidate who was not Mitt Romney. We finally caught up to Osama bin Laden and arranged for him and God to have a heart-to-heart chat, but it didn’t seem to bring any sense of closure. On the other hand, death came too soon for people like Steve Jobs, Amy Winehouse, Betty Ford and Joe Frazier. The world is a lesser place without them.
No, I don’t look back at 2011 and conclude anything that helps me with my 2012 resolutions. Clearly I could resolve to not hire the former economic minister of Greece as my financial adviser, or I could resolve not to appear on a reality television series, but I hope I’d do those things without a New Year’s resolution. If a resolution is supposed to be about self-improvement, then I should resolve to become more active in our nation’s democratic process, especially in this presidential year. However, I don’t think I want to improve myself that much.
At the end of the day, all I want to do is make the world a better place for my family, my friends, and the people in my community. So I resolve to be more patient, to be more tolerant, to listen more attentively and to help whenever I can. That’s enough for right now.
Happy New Year.
Shane Starr is a contributing columnist and LaGrange resident.