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New Year’s Eve and the Perpetual Triumph of Magical Thinking

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New Year’s Eve approaches, which means we’ve arrived once again at a point in the Earth’s orbit where we’ve collectively decided that one year will end and a new one begin. Scientifically, rationally, the changeover means absolutely nothing. But when the ball drops and we clink our champagne glasses and – if we’re lucky – kiss our special someone, the charge of emotion in the air and in our hearts will be unmistakable.earth-sunrise

I can’t think of a more iconic example of what humanity is all about than the dichotomy of meaninglessness and meaning, emotion and reason, magical and rational thinking that is New Year’s Eve.

The calendar has always been arbitrary. To wit: if you’re Samoan, and your birthday happens to be December 30, you’re out of luck this year, because for reasons of trading convenience the island nation is bounding to the opposite side of the international date line, and to accomplish that it needs to skip a day.

Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, a day when many Christians will have been going to church anyway. Convenient, right? Or did the holiday influence your work schedule less pleasantly than it sometimes does? Either way, scientists at Johns Hopkins have proposed a new calendar that would put Christmas (and every other holiday) on the same day of the week each year.

The chances of the world making that switch may be slim, but there’s nothing but custom stopping it. We can’t physically bump the Earth ahead in its orbit, but if some of us make a group decision to change this or that in our numbering scheme of days or months or years, lo, it is done. Just ask Julius Caesar, Pope Gregory – or the Samoans.

The New Year comes when you wish it. During calendar year 2012 we can celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Jewish New Year, and so forth. But for now let’s welcome 2012 – a year in which we hope the world will become a slightly better place, and also of course, for better and for worse, another year of magical thinking.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is a Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • This is the season of magical thinking for sure. I just think we need to be more like our kids and “believe” in the magic; otherwise, much of the fun is gone.