Thomas Mann, in his novel The Magic Mountain, said
"Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning if a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols."
And after the ringing in of another new year, I suppose there is an element of truth in his words. One year rolls into the next without much variation and, in our modern age of technology, there is barely even a lull in activity over the Christmas period. We can still shop 24:7, we can still communicate at any time and the usual rubbish still fills TV network slots.
But there is something special about New Year. It is something like the feeling of starting a new exercise book at school: the unmarked cover; the crisp, blank pages. It has promise. It offers a fresh start.
New Year is all about hope.
In the northern hemisphere at New Year, the winter solstice is behind us; we can once again look forward to lengthening days and to the approach of spring. We no longer have to fear the cold seasons (as our ancestors would have done) but we still feel excited by the prospect of returning sunshine and warmth.
This excitement drives us to make the resolutions that mark this time of year. As with the new exercise book, the promise of the new year compels us to dream. This year we can be anything we want to be; we can start afresh on that first blank page.
I have thought a lot about resolutions this year. I have had little success with them in the past. I fear my approach has been wrong. I have attempted the usual list (lose weight, stop biting my nails, read more poetry, etc.) but have always been defeated within days. I then feel completely discouraged, that I have missed my opportunity to change. But why? It is, after all, slightly absurd to expect to be able to change the habits of a lifetime overnight, with no real incentive to do so! Why now? Why does that kind of change have to be a New Year thing?
So this year I am attempting something new. I am not making a resolution as such, instead I am giving myself a word. It is a word that, at the moment, I cannot attribute to myself (anyone who knows me will agree!) and is certainly an area of my life that needs work! My word for the year is organised. I am not saying that by the end of this year I intend to be the most super-organised person on the planet: more that I intend to focus my thinking on how I organise myself, my time and my things. I would like to form new habits rather than try to break old ones.
I have made a start.
The crisp, blank pages of diary and calendar have absorbed their first ink. I am organised when it comes to family birthdays at least. If it is part of human nature to mark and compartmentalise time, I'd like to make sure I spend as much of it as possible with the people I love and doing the things I enjoy.
So for 2012, I wish you health, happiness and success - however you choose to fill your blank pages...