Thursday, September 5, 2013
There are no New Years, only new days
The seasons cycle, winter to spring to summer to fall, without a beginning or an end. So we humans, who very definitely begin and end, like to pretend that years end too, just like us, to chop them up, insert pauses, like rests in music, to allow us to catch our breath, gather our energies, and start playing again, renewed.
Thus Jews pause Thursday to welcome in 5774, a year many would be hard pressed to specify at any other season. And three months and three weeks later, the rest of the world -- and most Jews too -- welcome in the standard new year, this time 2014. The first, ushered in with apples and honey, the second with champagne, hors d'oeuvres, and frantic, bad television programs.
And what do we wish for, at these special times, during these self-imposed changes in the calendar? The Jews seem interested in praising God—I just came from evening services. Much praising of God. One hopes He's pleased. And the secular New Year involves pledges to improve ourselves, to lose weight, start exercising, be better people, that people we haven't been the past year, and probably won't be the next year, or ever. Still, we try.
Strange ventures, both. And nothing you can't do all through the year, if you so desire—both the praising and the resolving. Always a good idea, thanks and effort. Which makes one wonder, not why we do it so much now, but why so little the rest of the year? Why do we need the artificial change from one digit to the next, to prompt us to piety, to prod us to be self-improvement, to realize that we are not as appreciative of all that we have, not as much as we should be, or that we are not trying to be the people we'd like ourselves to be. So maybe the lesson of the New Year is to try to make every day a little more like it. To try not to concentrate so much of our hopes on a decimal change, and instead realize that while there is really no such thing as a New Year—it's just the Same Old Year dressed up in our imaginings—there is very definitely a new day, a multitude of new days. Arriving, in fact, every single day—odd how that works out— and each can be as important as we care to make it. So Happy New Year, Happy New Day.