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That Magical Allure of a New Year

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

With five minutes left for the clock to strike 12, I was standing on the roof of my building looking around the San Francisco skyline, trying to take it all in. 

Premature firework displays, the blinking lights of a couple of drones, neighbors — whom I had never met — on their own rooftops, people spilling onto the streets from a bar nearby, a firetruck silently flashing by — all signs of a city that was unusually awake for that time on a Sunday. 

Honestly, I was enjoying it all, but with a small yet nagging thought in the back of my head. “Why does it matter?” Zoom out too much into space until our world is just a blue marble, and the whole point of the festivities seem stranger. 

The planet took one more lap around the Sun. Great job! But why should that matter to the moving, talking, thinking bags of organic matter that inhabit it? Why would one arbitrary day bring so much hope and joy to us?

The answers that came to me were nothing more than bromides. “We get to start new.” “We get 365 more chances.” “We welcome the possibilities of a new future.” 

One thing that I notice as I grow older is that phrases and ideas that used to placate me weren’t as effective as they used to be. I have grown more wary, jaded and skeptic. And yet there I was standing in the cold, slightly shivering, counting down to an arbitrary time to an arbitrary day to an arbitrary year, when I could have rather been warmly tucked in and asleep. 

So, with 2 minutes remaining to 12, I decided to look inwards. Why should it matter to me? 

I looked back at the year I had had and thought about what it meant to me. The good things that happened to me, the not-so-great things that I had to live through and every mundane day in-between. Thinking back, the only feeling I could clearly identify was that of gratitude. As skeptical as I have grown, I also have grown to appreciate the fleeting nature of life, and how precious time is. 

At that moment, I was reminded of another aphorism — one that somehow, I was still not tired of: “The days are long, but the years are short.” And that suddenly made me aware how quicky 2023 had flown by. The 31stof December of 2022 seemed too recent, yet so long ago. 

The less patient seconds-hand was racing up to the top of the watch. With less than a minute left to the new year, I felt this urgent need to articulate my thoughts before I could scream the words while feeling less like a hypocrite. 

So, this was what I came up with. It all boils down to hope. While we seem tough and intimidating with our self-conscious brains and advanced means of war, us as humans are fragile. 

We need a feeling of reassurance that everything would be all right, and that a new calendar marks a fresh start in our existence; that we might get another shot at making right all the ugliness of war, pain, poverty, and suffering; that we get another chance to see, feel, listen and make art that makes life worthwhile; that we get to try once again to be the person we were meant to be. 

It seemed to me that it all came down to hope. And as a wise man who was too brightly feathered to be caged said, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

As the clock hit 12, more fireworks lit the sky, the same way hope lit up hearts. The wary old man who occupied a chamber of my brain must have been satisfied with my musings, for I didn’t feel awkward while I yelled with glee — “Happy New Year!”