Hello and good morning. It’s Thursday, and so—as inevitable as death or at least as inevitable as taxes—it’s time for my weekly blog post. This will be the last blog post of 2021 AD, a year many of us will not be sad to see the back of. Indeed, you can see that I feel so strongly about this that I’m even willing to end a sentence with a preposition.
It’s New Year’s Eve eve today, if you will, though there is no such official holiday. It’s not even an informal one like Devil’s Night, the night before Halloween*, itself an “Eve” holiday, though that’s often forgotten—and rightly so in my opinion, since Halloween is much more fun than most other holidays and certainly far more widely celebrated than All Hallows Day.
There’s nothing inherently special about New Year’s Day (or Eve). It’s an arbitrarily chosen time for us to restart our calendar year because we have to do it some time. It’s not like the solstice- and equinox-based celebrations I’ve discussed before, which have legitimate, astronomical bases and are objectively interesting moments in the Earth’s orbit.
New Year doesn’t even always happen at the same place in the planet’s orbit. It can’t. For one thing, it’s celebrated hourly for 24 hours over the course of that day, depending upon when midnight arrives in a given time zone. This is a perfectly reasonable way to do things, of course, but it means that the holiday itself is smeared out along the planet’s orbital path even on a given year. And, of course, since the orbital length is not an integer number of days**, the celebration of New Years smears out in another way over the course of time, to jump back a day every fourth year, but not on years that are multiples of a hundred, except YES on years that are multiples of four hundred (I think that was it), and so on with all the corrections used by the modernized Gregorian Calendar to try to keep the year reasonably aligned with the seasons and with the solstices and equinoxes mentioned above.
All of which is, of course, quite fascinating from a scientific and cultural point of view, but really, the holiday is about a chance for renewal, a symbolic rebirth or at least a new beginning, like starting a new iteration of a game, with the scoreboard is set back to zero, so it’s possible for anyone to win by the end.
I don’t know where people get these ideas.
Of course, we cannot literally start over, nor would most of us want to if we could, since almost everyone has made at least some progress that they wouldn’t care just to throw away. Much of our identity in any given moment is dependent upon our memory of the past. But it can be useful, and sometimes heartening, to embrace the notion of a restart point for at least some things in our lives, such as diet and exercise and other difficult habit-based situations.
I have been embracing something like that notion in that I’ve been rereading what I’d written so far of Outlaw’s Mind, to try to get back into the flow of the story. The process has been slow, since I haven’t been reading very much every day—I’ve been very tired mentally and emotionally, and even physically, and just in general very discouraged. I’ve not really been looking forward to even seeing the new year arrive, to be honest. I have no good reason to think that it will entail anything other than continuing mental, social, physical, and emotional disintegration, which have been the hallmarks of my last nine or ten years at least, and have accelerated recently.
Still, I have been reading the story, without doing any editing, and I do enjoy it. I usually enjoy reading my stories. That makes one person. So, I think it will be a useful exercise and will help me then to move forward with the story thereafter. I’m feeling tempted again to try to write it out longhand when the time comes. I have some lovely high-quality notebook paper to use for that now if I have the nerve.
I haven’t been thinking much about Changeling in a Shadow World this week, but that’s fine. There’s only so much one can do prior to starting to write the thing, and I’m not going to start that before Outlaw’s Mind is done. I had a couple of fun and rather silly ideas for short stories in the last week, which I jotted into the notebook app on my phone. They are technically horror story ideas, but one at least is a sort of crude, dark-comedy type horror story idea. I don’t know if I’ll ever write it, but it’s a fun notion, and involves a mutated and/or genetically engineered form of gonorrhea, among other things. The other is a bit less sophomoric in character, but it’s quite a bit darker, too, at least in philosophical implications. If those ever happen, you’ll be welcome to read them.
In the meantime, despite my apparent cynicism, I do in fact wish you all a very Happy New Year, both in terms of your celebration thereof, which I hope you’ll share with your beloved families and friends to the degree that you can do so safely, as well as in terms of the upcoming year. I won’t quote John Lennon*** and say, “It can’t get no worse”, since it can always get worse, but I will say that, given human drive and persistence, and the fact that, contrary to some appearances, a great many very smart and disciplined and optimistic people are working to improve things at all levels, there are at least good odds that a lot of things are going to improve in the upcoming year.
It’s not something to take for granted, since it will always be easier to destroy than to create, but those smart, creative optimists are pretty frikking impressive sometimes. The James Webb telescope is out there now, in its position in the Lagrange point, and it’s steadily working toward eventually giving us the deepest, most amazing views of the cosmos we’ve yet had. And there’s nothing arbitrary about that.
*Celebrated by some people in the region in which I grew up by setting random fires.
**Not a whole number of days, I guess, would be more precise. An integer number might imply that it would be possible for an orbit to last a negative number of days, there being as many negative integers as positive ones, and it’s hard to see how that would make any sense at all. I suppose one might imagine a science fiction story—perhaps involving The Doctor—in which a planet’s orbit around its sun carries its inhabitants backward in time instead of forward. For them, the End of the World would indeed be predictable—the birth of their solar system and ultimately of the universe itself.
***In his backup lyric from the song It’s Getting Better All the Time.