New Year’s Eve: The Holiest Day of the Year?

wheel of samsaraAH, THE EVE OF THE GREGORIAN NEW YEAR. What shall we make of this contrived, “pop transit?”  Surely we can come up with a kinder interpretation than “co-opted Solstice.”

If you’re like me, it’s hard to whoop it up about a unit of time so unstained by the intercourse of stars and nature. The few times I’ve actually clinked a champagne glass and spoken the requisite mantra, I felt  insincere, distracted–pulled faraway by the distant sound of mother Gaia blowing her kazoo of indifference.

This year is different. There is a deeper voice–a voice unwounded by the meaningless suspense of time and the mindless momentum of tradition–that challenges me to feel into the mystical underpinnings of this numeric turning. For fifty-five years I have allowed the hype of “new-ness” to distract me from an inquiry into the nature of “year-ness.” Not this time.

Of all the subdivisions of time, surely the year carries the heaviest burden. It alone is saddled with the unpopular task of measuring the rate at which our birth/death interval is shrinking. It documents our demise. How curious, then, that humans have elevated the new year into something so festive.

Clearly, whatever it is in us that celebrates the march of time must not, itself, be marching. Unscathed by the inevitability of becoming house-bound, with bad knees and dementia, someone in there is humming a timeless tune in a parallel reality. How remarkable then, when–on one evening per year–this submerged celebrator of samsara steps out of our collective shadow to thumb its nose at time and dance on our imaginary conveyor belt to death.

How, I ask myself, could a holiday reeking of such existential significance escape my attention? New Year’s may be astrologically irrelevant, but it can be argued that the celebration of time–and the self-realization potential that its passage affords–is worth at least as much celebration as the gross and subtle demarcations within it.

Think about it: here we have a holiday that makes merry about the time-bound nature of the ego, the very atmosphere through which the dream of separation moves. Only a Buddha could do such a thing! Why don’t we just call it the Buddhist National Holiday and be done with it?

I may or may not go to bed early this year, but it won’t be in moot protest. This little cusp deserves to be ballyhooed. By lending a warm embrace to the lord of time, New Years points to our unspeakable resilience. To everyone who has ever hung on the cross of matter and spirit, it gives a retrospective salute and pays homage to the countless, undocumented moments of ascension that have carried our mortal frames through yet another year.

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