Ring out the old, ring in the new, /Ring, happy bells, across the snow:/ The year is going, let him go;/ Ring out the false, ring in the true,” wrote the British poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. For thousands of years, humans have marked the beginning of a new year with sacred festivals. January is named after the Roman god Janus, whose two faces looked to both the past and the future. Janus is also god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages and endings. As we enter the New Year and new month, we can welcome the newness gently and warmly.
Carol Kuruvilla, associate editor of HuffPost Religion, gives some tips to make the New Year more meaningful. She recommends that we choose a word of the year. The word or motto, like a chapter heading for the book can give a new direction to your life. It can set the tone for each day and guide our action.
Next she suggests we resolve to be grateful, not just for the old year, for everything that happens in our lives. It is worth spending some time focusing on gratitude. There are many acts of kindness, which we experience but not fully integrate into our own lives. Slowly we need to realise that besides the very gifts we have received, our life is the greatest gift for which we can be grateful. Always. It is recommended that we write a journal, where we can remember people, events and experiences, which have been sources of blessings for us.
She also suggests that we can a letter to ourselves. Writing a letter allows us to be focused and to reflect more on our present lives. I would suggest at least three letters. One to the person I was 10 years ago, another to the person I shall be after 10 years. The third could be written to the present me, by the person I would be at the moment my life comes to an end. In the letters we can reflect on three things that works best for me and resolve to carry on. The letters also can reflect three things that did not work well for me, which I can improve.
We can also resolve to carry out one small act of kindness. Preferably it can be done anonymously. If we can cultivate the habit of at least doing consciously one act of kindness that will surely boomerang on me and make my own life more worthwhile.
These tips and resolutions are to change us and not the world. As the British writer, Gilbert K Chesterton, reminds us “the object of a new year is not that we should have a new year, but rather that we should have a new soul.” The celebrations associated with the New Year are to be welcomed. But woe to ourselves if we restrict ourselves to the external celebrations only. The external celebrations should lead us to a deeper change within our own being. A change in our vision, values, commitment and concerns. Such a change can make our lives more life affirming, peace promoting and other-centered. Such a life style makes our life truly joyous and authentic.
Then we can resonate with the insight of American romantic poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” By being grateful for everything and by being open to everyone in this new year, we can make every day the best day for ourselves and, still better, for others. Then we can perceive newness in the new, in the old and at every moment. For newness drives us on to the noblest!
(The writer is professor of science and religion and author of Death: Live it!)