When you think about it, as with most units of measurement, time is nothing but a decision made arbitrarily by someone or some people long ago.
I remember the controversy that came with the passing of the millennium – or what we thought was the passing of the millennium. Year 2000 wasn’t really the 2000th year, some experts said. Someone long ago made the error of giving or taking four years. I think it was in relation to this that humanity discovered that the birth of Christ, the usual standard against which time is measured, is also off by four years. Thus, and I know this might sound weird, but the Birth of Christ is more likely dated at around 4 years Before Christ (How’s that for a Star Trek storyline?)
While it is also true that we go around the sun in a fixed amount of hours, minutes and seconds, who said that a second was going to be measured like the snap of a finger or a heartbeat or the famous “tick” and “tock”? And that minutes would bear sixty of those ticks, and an hour will bear sixty of those sixty ticks? (Runners, basketball players, swimmers, and all time-based sportspeople have probably thought about this at one time or another.) I’m sure some physicist or historian can help me out me here, but then – who decided that we should in fact measure our years by the number of times our little ball in space goes around the big fiery ball in space?
Then comes the way with which we treat years like people. “Hey, 2014, thanks!” Or “I’m ready, 2015.” I know metaphor (personification!) when I see one, but years are not people who have come and will come to run your life or dance with you or do battle with you or eat the rest of your fruitcake in the ref. This might have something to do with how we have also personified time in the metaphorical person of, well, Father Time.
Dates are arbitrary, something we’ve chosen to commemorate stuff we’ve done. Markers we’ve placed like hashmarks on walls to see how and if we’ve grown. A language so we can agree about meetings and about who is late or too early. Time is nothing but a human-made measurement, no more arbitrary than a centimetre or a yard.
Which brings me to my point, which I hope is a hopeful one:
The “new year” is not “coming.” It’s not “a new set of 365 days (who gave that number anyway? And then we try to fix our arbitrary mess with something called leap years.)” For again, what is time but a marker? And while markers may be helpful (and don’t worry, I seriously believe they are), they are not our masters.
Time is arbitrary. But our choices are not.
Years are not people. We are.
We choose to go on living meaningfully, because we know life is meaningful at whatever “time” of “day” it is. We choose to seize the proverbial day because we do not want to squander the chances life gives us. We understand that every breath is already a blessing, and through it we can bless others as well.
We don’t have to wait for the “new year” or the “new week” or the next “semester” or the next “quarter” or even the next “day” to feel new, or do new stuff, or try new things, or dare to live in a new way. There are no new clean slates waiting to be dirtied like laundry, only the persistence of our hearts to renew passions, loves and joys.
While it might indeed be helpful to think of this “new year” as a “new chance,” it might also be helpful to remember that if you do squander that chance, you can in fact think of any date in the calendar as your very own “new year.” Come on, the Chinese have their own. So do the Jews. It’s arbitrary. So have your own!
Let any day, any second, be a fresh start.
Because it’s not about the measurement of time, it’s about your choice.
As the song says, you can measure your life not in seconds and minutes and hours and days, but in love.