I don’t get too caught up in the hoopla–it is just another day, January 1st.
But there is significance.
There’s significance because a year is a tried and true measurement of time. As such, we’re used to having it mean something. We use it for grades through school, seasons for sports and television, and for recognizing the “best of” in every category from film to fashion to technology to travel.
More fundamentally, it’s a measurement nature uses—rings on a tree, the annual plant’s life cycle, a bear’s hibernation, the buck’s antlers. So while the cyclical nature of the year may be enhanced due to our reliance on the measurement, would we not still be reminded of the 12 months prior every time it hit -25 degrees below zero, the leaves changed color, or the fish spawned? Us having the cutoff on the arbitrary date of January 1st notwithstanding, there’s a natural reminding and reflection as a result of the Earth’s annual rotation.
Thus, it’s a pretty natural thing to live our lives shaped by the year, to set our goals according to the year, schedule events on an annual basis. And it’s reasonable to use the changing of our year to look back, reflect, relive, rethink, reminisce, on everything we experienced (or that others experienced) within the confines, this year, of the 2-0-1-1.
It’s healthy to do so.
First and foremost, we get to see our recent pasts in the fresh light of reflection. It’s a chance to step outside of ourselves for a minute, be objective, and help us learn about oneself in the process. Maybe we can better see our patterns of behavior, the things we’d like to change, situations we wished we handled differently, or things we’re proud of. Perhaps there was a tragedy in the past year and can release some of the pain around it.
Reflection offers a keen insight and catharsis.
We also get to learn about ourselves, as humans, by looking back on the events that shaped world. We can gauge technological, social, and moral progress. We can see what events most showed up on the social radar and form an opinion of what these say about us.
Were you caught up in the Royal Wedding? How about the Republican debates? Did you suffer through the Twins’ terrible season?
The biggest reason reflection is healthy, though, is because all this looking back is an exercise of appreciating Life. It’s a process of enriching our existence, devoting our present to soaking in the moments that made our lives special—and recognizing what those moments meant, and mean, for us.
The healthiness is contingent on one factor, though: that we don’t spend too much time doing so. Reflecting in the present is one thing; living in the past is another.
In the past twelve months some of us changed a lot, and so speak to the lengthiness of a year. To others, it went by and find themselves where they were 12 months prior; these folks may speak to one year’s brevity. As one gets older, the former seems to be the norm. This makes sense, if just mathematically: one year is a lower percentage of 40 years than it is of 15.
Whether short or long, however, a lot does happen in a year—to ourselves and to others—and so we use this occasion to reflect on life in the not-to-distant past.
So though I don’t see it as some magical moment from which to start something new, end a bad habit, or whatever, the idea of using our man-made chronological system as an opportunity to learn from ours and others’ pasts and to learn about our lives, has me recognize the significance of today, December 31st and tomorrow, January 1st, 2012.
to poignant reflections,
to new plateaus,