Yes, my friends, it is that time of year. The end of the old year and the beginning of the new year. This is when we traditionally make a list of things that we call “resolutions”, which is most likely a list of the things we wish we had done last year, but are determined to do this year. They include things that we are going to do more of, things that we are going to do less of, and things that we think other people expect of us. Unfortunately, very few of our resolutions address how we will treat other people or the environment. But that really is no cause for alarm, since we probably won’t do any of them anyway.
First of all, let’s put this “New Year’s Day” event into proper perspective. January 1st is an arbitrary date established by a calendar. In our case here in the United States, it is the Julian Calendar established by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE and later refined by the Gregorian Calendar, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
Other cultures celebrate the new year at different times of the year. For instance, the Chinese New Year is based on a Lunar Calendar and falls somewhere between January 20 and February 20. In Sri Lankan culture the New Year happens between April 13 and 14. Iran celebrates the vernal equinox on March 21 as the start of the New Year. If you are in Ethiopia around September 11 or 12 you will be able to celebrate their New Year. The Pagans used Samhain (Halloween) on October 31 as the beginning of their New Year. The list goes on, but I won’t.
My point is that January 1st is just another day. The importance placed on it is not universal. In essence, we could say that any day could be the beginning of a New Year.
So, Resolutions, Revelations, Revolutions, and Reservations. What is this title about? I think it follows a sequence that directly influences our decisions regarding the “New Year’s Resolutions” we adopt.
Resolution – “a firm decision to do or not to do something. From the Latin resolver “to loosen, release.”
We decide what we want to do and release that decision into the spiritual realm, or maybe just write it down in our journal.
Revelation – “a surprising and previously unknown fact, especially one that is made in a dramatic way.” From the Latin revelare “to lay bare.”
We act as though this is a new and dramatic decision…
Revolution – (I’m not talking about the overthrow of a government) “a single orbit of one object around another.” From the Latin revolvere “to roll back.”
When in fact, it is probably “rolled over” from last year’s list.
Reservation – “a qualification to an expression of agreement or approval; a doubt.” From the Latin reserver “to keep back.”
And we always have certain qualifications and doubts about the ultimate success of our resolutions.
Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese poet, philosopher, and theologian of the late 19th and early 20th centuries said, “Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from trying to control it.” That makes sense to me.
So this is my New Year’s Resolution:
I will not try to control the future by establishing unrealistic expectations for my behavior. I will, instead, try to control the present and live each day as best I can, taking into consideration my impact on others and the environment, as well as myself. I will consider each day to be the first day of a “New Year.” At the end of each day, I will ask myself this question, “Was I a slightly better person today than I was yesterday?” Hopefully the answer will allow me to go to sleep with few regrets.
It’s a grand resolution, realistic for the elements included. Most resolutions are half-hearted desires pre-acknowledged as never to happen, or as wishes under the assumption that once stated they will be fulfilled without further consideration or attention. This is the same mentality that assumes all goodness and desire will be granted if only one hour of sleepy attention per week is given in a house of worship. Daily attention of one’s thoughts, words and deeds is key. We are all given a wonderful opportunity each night to examine our performance of the day and to re-invent ourselves upon waking each morning. This attention puts resolution success on firm ground.