I am blind to the miracles that surround me. Every day, this magnificent star 93 million miles away reveals itself in an explosion of color and warmth. Every day this happens and rarely do I bother to look. Every second an organ beats in my chest. Tireless. Breath fills my lungs and passes molecules into a fluid that traverses miles of tiny tubes picking up and dropping off chemicals. This activity is all directed from somewhere deep in my brain out of my reach. Surrounding this primitive control center is a dense web of cells carrying electrical and chemical signals one to the next. These waves of forces and particles somehow interact to create everything I know; my sense of self, my understanding of the environment around me and what little perception I have of the universe. These interactions are the intangible things that make me human. Emotions. My sixth sense. Things that only exist in my brain yet influence every part of my being. The love I feel for my family, the anxiety I feel facing the unknown, the hatred infiltrating my inner peace seeing injustice; all figments of my imagination existing only as an ebb and flow of tiny forces across tiny cells in a tiny brian on a tiny planet in an infinite universe. In this tiny space I can consider the vastness of space, the concept of time, the meaning of life. I can wonder to myself is the universe really an infinitely large thing outside or an infinitely small thing inside me. These observations stand not only for me, they are repeated at least once for each of my 6 billion fellow beings. The magic extends beyond the 6 billion observers to the trillions of other life forms. How impossible is it for an oak tree to crawl out of an acorn?
I find myself facing another New Year’s Eve with the same curiosity I have always had. What is it about New Year’s that everyone finds so significant. Is New Year’s Eve any different than any other eve? Is there any real significance about January 1 that is not also true about January 2 and the other 364 evenings and mornings we face? Moreover, what is about New Year’s Eve that incites people all over the globe to drink more, smoke more and party more than any other night? Is it just a much needed and universally accepted excuse to get drunk and act a fool? Is it something more insidious reminding us of our mortality and magnified beyond our birthday by the shared angst of the global population on a single day?
On a morning run, I was struck by the overt friendliness that affects everyone this time of year. The same people I pass on the street the rest of the year without a glance now bubble out of themselves with warm wishes for a happy New Year. It is the same with clerks at the store, neighbors silent the rest of the year and acquaintances we hear from only on the precipice of a dawning annum. Why so friendly and optimistic today? Why not so every day? Why is it so easy (or so expected) on this day? How would the world be different if we all treated every day like the fresh start it is?
Then there is the annual tradition of resolutions to be better people – better shape, better health, better relationships better business, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. As though this one special night is the only shot we have all year. A special ‘open enrollment’ for deciding to be better. Be careful how you choose, you are stuck with your decisions until next Dec 31.