A different, better New Year…?

 We bought our diaries the other day.  (I know – riveting – but stay with me!) The ‘other day’ was unfashionably late,   nearing the end of  the first week of the  New Year.   Just a few days earlier, crowds all over the world had gathered to celebrate the arrival of 2017. Like most of us  they   made their resolutions  –  and  like most of us, probably  forgot them the next day.

So far so traditional but this time  it seemed  that   the rituals were powered  by relief,  a world-wide  delight in  seeing off  a ghastly year.  As Dave Barry  wrote in the  Washington Post ‘ In the future,  Americans – assuming  there are any left – will look back at  2016 and remark: “What the HELL?’

Many felt the same way,  but isn’t this event  only a turn of the page? Doesn’t  the New Year always arrive at our  party  with  ghosts of the old – Destiny, Fate, Kismet?  John Lennon knew them  all  too well  all  when he quipped that  life is what happens when you’re planning something else.

And so…

A few days before the end of the year, a relative who had  only just survived a very rough 2016  in  his retailing business, sounded upbeat about the chances of his  business turning the corner profitably over the Christmas season.  Then:

The date: December 30. The place: Melbourne.  The event: a once in a  100- year-old  flood which  sent all his  projections down the drain.  Kismet  and all.  Or  another place and  time: Istanbul, on New  Year’s Eve with celebrations cut short by another slaughter of partying  innocents.

So  back to those diaries.   As soon as  they arrived, we sat down and coloured in the future with  birthdays, anniversaries  and  appointments –    the routines of   diarists  everywhere.   Just like the crowds celebrating New Year’s Eve  near Sky Tower in Auckland and elsewhere,  it was  done with expectations  –  against all the evidence –   that this  new year,  would somehow be  not only be  different,  but better.

Maybe. Maybe not.  Perhaps  one endorsement of   our  hopeful forward-looking, hopeful selves lies  in  the realization that we  have only one life. And so  we  happily itemise our  tomorrows and why not.    We’d  already  wished  each other and the world a Happy New Year…. was that  wish   also a prayer to  the  Fates?

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.