In the big scheme of things, today is nothing more than another date in a calendar. Yet, people give it great importance and treat it with reverence as if a period is truly ending and another one is starting. If we were on an island in the middle of nowhere, with no watches to tell the time or calendars to point out the date, would we know the difference? Would it even matter? The importance of bidding the old year farewell at parties and welcoming a new year in pomp and circumstance remains a mystery to me. Yet, I continue to join millions of celebrants in this senseless ritual. It might be that, deep down I believe that something good is about to manifest itself with one simple movement on a calendar. Maybe I need a symbolic action to revive my hope -- killed by the previous years -- that our world will have another chance at righting the wrongs or that my fate is truly embarking on a new path that might bring new people, new experiences, and new excitement.
Just like that, year after year, we set the stage and we plan where and with whom we will spend the last hours of a year and the first moments of a brand new one, even if in spirit we are somewhere else.
Having lived a good bit and experienced life in its sharp peaks and deep slums, I came to the understanding that every moment in our life is a new year. Every second can be fateful, capable of changing us forever.
I've seen people lose loved ones, some peacefully, others in the most heinous and violent ways. I stood more times than I care to remember, speechless, hugging a weeping friend or loved one, crushed by a bitter hand life has dealt them, unable to comprehend or absorb the magnitude of what one split second had brought them. I’ve seen some of them go through the pain like a quiet agonizing prayer at the altar of life and survival while others collapse weighted by a tragedy too large to absorb.
I’ve seen people surrender to illness and others fight all the way to come out triumphant celebrating every day as a gift and brand new chance at simply being.
I've witnessed history: Fall of systems, regimes and dreams. Nations struggling for independence, people risking everything for freedom, senseless political assassinations, war, famine, economic woes, disease, poor and rich alike losing everything they have without any warning; celebrations too: Births, marriages, graduations and love.
No matter what we get, we deal with it the best way we can and life goes on, with or without us. It continues unscathed, uninterested in what happens with us as individuals or communities. As hard as our reality can be, we must accept it and make the best out of our time on this earth to remain in the game.
One thing is guaranteed: Nothing stays the same. People who succeed are those who fail repeatedly but never give up. The best survival mechanism seems to be our ability to keep moving, re-inventing our selves to fit our new situations, constantly upgrading our knowledge of our surrounding and who we are.
This begs the question about our identity. Who are we? Do we change as we expect the world to change with a new calendar year? How about our struggles and pains? Are they different with the arrival of a new year?
We strive to be free but most often we deny the same freedom to others. We have the same response to crisis no matter what year it is. Our politics as well as our attitudes towards important issues do not change with the arrival of a new year. Sometimes we find ourselves hailing killing and terrorism because they suit our agenda, we lose our humanity in the process. We seek security, shelter, food and love but we deny them to others when we are in charge.
As we welcome 2013, let us remember this:
Inequality breeds resentment
Resentment breeds hatred
Hatred breeds violence
Violence breeds destruction
Destruction of the self as well as land, property and other people’s lives and livelihoods.
Which fight will you engage in today? Weapons, words, actions, compassion, nonviolence, love, divisiveness, or erecting borders and walls?
We don’t need a new year to determine who we are. A look back at the previous years is usually a good indicator. Now that the celebration is over and the well wishes start fading away, we should define who we want to be and how we want to spend our precious unpredictable existence -- one new moment at a time!