Who, Janus?

So, January 1st and a New Year. But it was not always the case that celebrations took place in the month of January. In Ancient Rome, the calendar followed the lunar cycle, so the New Year fell in March. For the January gig, you can blame a chap called Sosigenes – an astronomer – who persuaded Julius Caesar to opt for the solar year, which was duly applied in 46 B.C. From then on, it was a new calendar.

Get that pleb a seat. Well, if they’d gone for a plebiscite, it may have bottomed out differently. We all know how they can go.

But this is a rare circumstance when we can legitimately blame it on the sunshine and the moonlight.

Julius bought it, and fortunately there was a suitable Roman God – Janus – whose two faces could glance back and forward in time respectively. So everything fitted (no pun intended regarding the great seizure, or should I say Caesar, at the Battle of Thapsus).

Janus, I believe, went on to a career in recruitment. But I have digressed beyond my habitual wont.

Now, what about the good times and the boogie?

What gives with all this celebrating a ‘New Year’? I mean, there’s no spiritual or physical event connected to it. It’s just the end of a period, defined by the method we use to measure time.

But we are a society of the norm. Difference is largely feared, and there is comfort of safety in the crowd. To the point where we normalise acceptance without challenge. Celebrating the New Year has become the norm, so it’s here to stay. It at least until some other compelling ritual takes its place.

How else would you explain the obsession with celebrations and the extortionate amounts gleaned for products and services for New Year extravaganzas? Taxi fares increased by 500%? No problem. Pay £20 to visit the same venue where entry is free-of-charge on any other day of the year? We’d love to. Pyrotechnics with enough power to propel several medium-range intergalactic missiles to within a whisker of Chairman Kim’s bonkers hairstyle? Yes, please – and don’t worry about the million-pound price tag.

It’s become so ingrained in our psyche that nobody pauses for a second to question it. I mean, what is the rationale for it in the first instance – even before you take on board the price tag?

At what point did 2019 become the old year that we could not wait to usher out? The juncture at which its status transitioned from its exalted position immediately before the 2018 shindig? And what is it about New Years that make us so hell-bent on reinvention? These personal transformations that are so climacteric, that people nevertheless cram in as much of the nefarious activity they’ll soon disavow, in December in the run-up to self-reform.

Why not just make the resolutions when the rationale behind them first becomes apparent? That would make sense, because if there is a clear script for an abstemious future, one would think that even an additional day partaking in the bad stuff would be noxious.

I guess it boils down to some sort of collective manoeuvre of making public statements that will invoke some obliging, and mutually exchanged social pressure for keeping to one’s word. People putting themselves in positions from which they cannot readily climb down, so that they maintain consistent with their public pronouncements. There’s certainly a lot of psychological fieldwork that supports that theory.

But, it’s all just either an exercise in hype, planned by the powers-that-be to stimulate the economy, or a form of self-medication for those who cannot face the reality of the daily grind.

Anything to give us that moment when we can forget.

It certainly doesn’t do most of us any good. The majority of revellers will have awoken today, feeling half-dead, their wallets even emptier than when they had peeked inside and sunk back into a pre-Christmas state of despair. And there will have been no consolation with the realisation that January pay-day is so far away it might as well be January 2021.

Well, it will be exactly that in a year’s time, and there’ll be no seismic shift in predicament for the average New Year celebrant.

Until then it’s back to the coalface, with all the pre-Christmas bonhomie supplanted by an uninviting cold-start and the reprise of all the pre-festive hostilities. Then, it will be the insanely inappropriate targets set in stone by your typical unhinged and borderline-sociopathic CFOs the previous November, which will become your most immediate concern.

A fresh start it will not be. Once the last remnants of glitter or mass-produced Hong Kong paper streamer have fallen from the George III, or the King Kong outfit, it’ll be back to survivalist-affixed desperation and everything you had convinced yourself you were leaving behind. All you will have achieved will have been to allow yourself to be sucked into the slipstream of celebratory ritual, with a final blowback into the path of a juggernaut. And it will have cost you in more ways than one.

You see, only keeping it real underpins lasting change and progress. And that means you doing it, under your own steam and on your own terms. Espousing the why and internalising the how, so that what you decide on, you stick at.

Don’t opt for convention to numb the pain, because it is only momentary and the come-down is punitively regressive. It’s an ephemeral sensation of respite, nothing more.

Leave the Janus stuff to those who need no fancy dress for the two-faced gameplay. You’ll be seeing them again in the office tomorrow.

And by the way, those New Year’s resolutions? You’ll have junked them within a week.

Happy New Year.

unsplash-logoChris Gilbert

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