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David’s Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole.
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~ David’s Desk, Current Issue ~
David’s Desk #92 – Happy New You
Most of the holidays we celebrate are centered around an event or an historical personage. Christmas and Easter revolve around the birth and death of Jesus Christ. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, tells the story of the rededication of the Temple during the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd Century BCE. Other religions have their own festivals and celebrations honoring elements in their traditions, and nations have their secular holidays based on significant events and leaders in their history. Some holidays, such as the Solstices, are based on celestial phenomenon such as the shortest or longest day.
New Year, it seems to me, is different in that it is more personal. We’re not celebrating a person or an event, and while most of the world now designates January 1st as the beginning of the new year, other days have been so designated by different cultures throughout history, usually in relationship to the passage of the seasons. The traditional Chinese New Year, for instance, is a day in late January or early February, depending on the when the last day of the last month falls in the Chinese lunisolar calendar. It’s also known as the Spring Festival. By contrast, scholars believe the ancient Celts celebrated New Year’s Day on October 31 at the end of the harvest season.
So New Year’s Day is not tied to a specific event or person but rather to a concept: the idea of renewal as one cycle ends and another begins. In that beginning, there is the possibility of change, of doing things differently, of creating something new. It is a festival of hope.
We see this in our New Year’s resolutions. We rarely resolve to keep on doing something the same way. New Year is not about continuity as much as it’s about an opportunity to break old patterns and set new directions.
Of course, this is entirely arbitrary and very human. As far as the maple tree in my backyard is concerned, January 1st will be no different from December 31st. The seasonal round will continue as it always has with winter giving way to spring, to summer, to autumn, and then to winter again. To pick a day and say, “Today everything changes; today everything begins anew—it is the first day of a new year” is a human concept which speaks to our ability to change. It is an affirmation of our capacity for renewal, for wiping a slate and starting over.
Of course, this capacity is with us every day. We may celebrate it on New Year’s Day, but in one sense, every day is the first day of a new cycle for us if we make it so. We all have the ability to change, to break habits, to seek new direction, to unfold new potentials. We use New Year’s to remind us of this, but there’s no magical power affixed to January 1st to make this happen. The magic is in us.
At this time of year, we are encouraged to keep the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of goodwill and love, alive every day, to keep it from being a once-a-year phenomenon that our hearts open to each other. But it could also be said that we would benefit by keeping the spirit of New Year’s alive through the year as well, remaining aware that we are creative individuals who are not bound to habit but who can, on any day, at anytime, bring renewal into our lives.
This capacity for change and new direction is a personal one, which is why I think of New Year’s as a holiday of the person, a celebration of the power of transformation in each of us. Some forty years ago or so, the two-year old son of a friend of mine, yelled out to us in the spirit of New Year’s Day, “Happy New You!” Either he didn’t hear correctly what everyone else was saying or he was wise beyond his years, for in his salutation, he pinpointed the essence of the Day. It is about our ability to become a “New You”.
If we think about it, this is really one of the prime characteristics of life itself. Life is constantly renewing itself and exploring new directions and new possibilities. Yes, it possesses continuity and structure as well, but without the capacity for newness and change, adaptation and resilience, life would have disappeared long ago.
So at heart, New Year’s Day really is a celebration of life and the power of that life within us to see each day as a new birth, a new beginning, a new possibility.
As we start 2015 together, I wish for each of you that this spirit of renewal and possibility is there in your life as a vibrant presence. May the spirit of New Year’s Day be the spirit in all your days as a spirit of fiery hope, a spirit of creative vision, a spirit of unfolding potential.
Happy New You!
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(c) 2015 David Spangler
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