By Michael Turton
Is it even possible to reflect upon things that have not yet occurred? Or can you only reflect upon things that have already happened? This is one thing that really troubles me as we begin 2012. Few among us don’t wonder what the new year will bring. We may even attempt to shape that future – whether it’s by making resolutions – or even by changing our voting habits come November. Let’s agree not to reflect upon the future since I don’t think that is grammatically possible. Instead let’s ponder, wonder, contemplate, ruminate, speculate and even kick around the new year and what it may or may not mean for us.
A bit of background first. New Year’s Day, the very foundation upon which our entire year is based, has had a rather shaky history. The first time it was celebrated was in Rome, Jan. 1, 153 B.C. That date was confirmed – not by carbon dating – but by archaeologists who discovered commemorative coins bearing the inscription “First New Year’s Bash. BYOB. Rome 153 B.C.” Conspiracy theorists have questioned how the Romans knew to put B.C. on the coins. But even after that first big party of its kind, the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1. Finally, in 48 B.C., Julius Caesar said in his finest Latin, “Satis de haec anno novus dementia!” (enough of this new year craziness!) and decreed that Jan. 1 was the official start of the new year.
Well…not quite “finally.” In 567 A.D, at the Council of Tours, the Roman Catholic Church abolished Jan.1 as the start of the new year. Throughout medieval Europe the new year was celebrated in various places on Dec. 25, March 1, March 25 and Easter. On the one hand that must have been very confusing for calendar manufacturers but at the same time it quadrupled people’s chances of finding a good New Year’s Eve party to attend. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar again fixed Jan. 1 as the year’s first day. Protestant countries, including England and its American colonies, did not follow suit until 1752 when Dick Clark hosted his first Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.
Resolutions, technology and friends
It seems there is just no escaping those ancient Romans. Gary Ryan Blair is a consultant who works with businesses to help them with time management, priority setting and achieving their goals. Sounds an awful lot like corporate resolutions to me. I think he has some credibility. Blair says that New Year’s Resolutions began in 153 B.C. – coincidentally the same year as the big party mentioned above. Janus was a mythical king of Rome at the time and apparently not only had two faces, but the ability to look into past events as well as into the future. With credentials like that it was a natural that Janus was promoted from mere kingly status to become the ancient symbol for resolutions.
I have not yet made any resolutions for 2012. I believe the deadline is 11:59 p.m. on January 2. I can find no confirmation of that in my extensive collection of historical documents from ancient Rome, but I am quite sure it’s accurate. One resolution I’m considering for adoption is to be less intimidated by technology. The wheel was difficult enough – now it’s everything electronic. I still think the fax machine is the most incredible invention yet. One day no one had one. Next day everyone did. Have you ever wondered about the first fax machine sales rep? How did he or she sell that first fax machine when no one else owned one to receive that first faxed letter? “Trust me – others will soon buy fax machines – you need one.”
I’ve been on Facebook for a while but in truth really in name only. I sometimes use it to email people directly and to reassure myself that I have friends in numbers that exceed single digits. Yesterday however, I used it for something practical – I asked people about their resolutions and their take on the theory that the world will end in Dec. 2012 when the Mayan calendar runs out of refill pages. I got about 15 responses, including two from foreign countries. My post even prompted a conversation between a Cold Spring resident and someone in Ireland.
Change in store?
I have asked numerous people in person about new year’s resolutions, and to a person they said they had made none. But here’s the rundown of what people on Facebook told me about their resolutions:
Frances Filipich Pergamo: 1. To eat better (for physical health) 2. To live in the moment (for emotional health) 3. To be more grateful (for spiritual health).
Linda Driedger, from Cottam, Ontario: This year I want to keep eating healthy but now I want to work on setting up a workout program that I will stay with…My intentions are always good, but when my body tells me it hurts I sometimes give in. This year I want to not give up and push myself harder when I do hurt.”
Suzanne Bouchard: 1. When the going gets tough, I have to get going. 2. Think about engaging my core. 3. No more small talk (my entire body freezes up during small talk.) 4. You tell me a boring story – I will follow it with a better one that I obviously just made up. 5. To be more patient, and for other people to hurry the hell up.
John Dunn: 1. Get back on my bicycle(s). 2. Walk every day. 3. Learn to draw. 4. Revive my German.
Nancy Mazzarello: 1. Allow myself to be comfortable with who I am now, not who I can be. 2. Take responsibility for my failures and credit for my successes. 3. Learn to take care of myself as well as I care for others.
Debbi Milner: Take a Khan Academy class per day.
Michael Mell: Listen more and speak less.
Irene Kinnear Daniel from Ireland: I’m making several resolutions. Some I just know will fall by the way side, some I will definitely see them through. Top of my list is to live every day instead of just floating through life.
Trish Powers: Having spent so much time in academia or business or church, where there are “new years” in August, October, November, and/or June, I don’t really think about Jan. 1 as the beginning of any special new year, other than the date. When I find something I need to work on, I work on it, and that’s usually a daily thing.
Marie Lundquist: I only choose one or two manageable changes to pursue and have always followed through. 1. Lose weight. This is the first year that has been on my list. This includes exercise and eating less crap. 2. Stop holding your breath. Live your life NOW the way you want. Don’t wait for the bills to be paid or when you lose weight or next year or whatever. There are no excuses. This is all we have and I refuse to waste another minute living up to someone else’s expectations or worrying what someone else says. No more would have, could have, should have.
A local resident: What has been bubbling up for me is to take more risks in 2012 and work on that old fear of failure thing. Don’t use my name. This is top secret! (Dear Anon – you just missed a great opportunity to take a risk! ~Ed.)
Michael Turton: I changed my mind. I’m not waiting for the deadline. 1. Write more of the personal stories that are bouncing around in my head, trying to get out. 2. Make my house look the way I envision it. 3. Walk 4. Cook more, eat better 5. Get back to reading.
That Mayan calendar thing
Much has been made about the predicted end of life as we know it when the Mayan calendar reaches its end at the winter solstice next December. Here’s what my FaceBook friends had to say about it. The last word goes to Sylvia Wallin whose submission was brilliant – in my view.
Nancy Mazzarello: I honestly don’t know what to make of it. I do know that, if the Mayan’s are correct and this will be the end of the world as we know it, I don’t want to be among any possible survivors in what will surely be an apocalyptic world. I’d rather disappear into blissful nothingness.
Trish Powers: Nah. Not worried about the Mayan calendar, especially since those same writings refer to events AFTER the end of the world. Even if it were true, I can’t do anything about it, so …?”
Marie Lundquist: “Awaiting 2/12/12 is similar to Y2K. I am still holding my breath for the Killer Bees. Nostradamus was wrong and most likely will be again, but it is a profitable advertising ploy. If the world is to end this year, any attempt at worrying or preparing is quite futile. Let’s just make lists of resolutions that we will forget when the calendar turns to February and our new excuse will be that the world is going to end, so what’s the point?
John Dunn wrote: Not to worry, it’s one of those calendars printed on both sides. Flip it over and it picks up again in 2013 and goes on for quite a while. About Nostradamus:. If predictions were baseball, he’d been batting .000.
Suzanne Bouchard: Whenever I panic about the Mayan’s and their 2012 prediction, I think someday an oldies station will play “ I’m Sexy and I Know It” and I’m no longer afraid.
Irene Kinnear Daniel: I think about it a lot. I have no idea if 2012 will be our last year but if it is then I’m going out with a huge bang….bring it on I say.
Sylvia Wallin: Submitted a cartoon which for copyright reasons we can’t publish. It shows two Mayans. One, who has just completed making the calendar says, “I only had room to go to 2012.” The other responds, “Ha! That will freak somebody out someday.”
Looking for a few new traditions?
If the same-old-same-old ways of welcoming in the new year seemed a bit stale this year – consider adopting some traditions from other places and cultures next year. People in Paraguay love to go on an ocean cruise to celebrate. Paraguay is a landlocked country, in the middle of South America. Go figure. In other parts of South America people wear brightly colored underpants to mark the new year. Red means you’re looking for romance. Yellow means you’re looking for money. To mark their new year, Buddhists squirt water on people they meet on the street whether they know them or not. That may have real potential in Cold Spring – especially if the temperature is about 20 degrees. In Tibet the new year is celebrated in late January or early February at the time of the new moon. On the first day, people clean their houses from top to bottom. What could be more fun than that? In Ireland the political future of the country is predicted based on the direction that the wind is blowing on New Year’s Day. For politicians who tend to go whichever way the wind blows this would seem to be an ideal tradition. In Japan, all debts must be paid in preparation for the new year. Think of what that could do for the economy! In Denmark people jump off of chairs at midnight and throw dishes, breaking them against their neighbors’ doors. Folks in Garrison might want to try that. Twelve grapes are wolfed down quickly at the stroke of midnight in Spain. In Belgium, farmers wish their livestock a happy new year to help ensure a year of good health and well-being. The cemetery is the place to be in the small town of Talca, Chile. The mayor opens the cemetery at 11 p.m. and local residents are greeted with classical music and dim blinking lights. Elected officials in Nelsonville may want to look into this.
Predictions for 2012
I’m going to go out on a limb and make 10 predictions about the upcoming year:
Quite a few people born on February 29 will face the stark realization that they are in fact 40 years old – not 10.
Most, if not all. of the new traditions mentioned above will be broadly accepted throughout Philipstown – especially the bright underwear.
Prince Charles will attend diamond jubilee celebrations in February, marking the 60th year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, and wonder.
Time will really slow down once it turns really cold.
Time will really speed up once summer arrives.
Donald Trump and Sarah Palin will not run as a ticket in the November election. Most unfortunate for SNL.
I will succeed in 3 of my 5 resolutions.
Suzanne Bouchard will succeed in all of her resolutions although I have no idea what they mean.
John Dunn will run for the Cold Spring Village Board, campaigning door to door on his bicycle and talking to potential voters in German.
Sale of Mayan calendars will reach an all time high in the months ahead.
Feel free to submit your predictions for the upcoming year. Here’s to a great 2012 for all of us.
Happy New Year!