Perhaps if hope is a limited resource, so is the feeling of historical momentousness, the sense that one is at a special point in time. In that case, perhaps we should not attach so much importance to arbitrary calendar markers like new years, decades, or centuries. History doesn’t come conveniently split into round-numbered intervals. There is no reason why “the nineteenth century” or “the seventies” should be more natural or useful concepts than “1830-1930″ or “1968-1978″. And by pretending that they are, we may be harming our ability to recognize, understand, and act on real turning points.
Having said that, I wish readers a happy new year anyway.
Christmas isn’t just about wasting money or celebrating the spawning of the fish god. It’s also supposed to be about having more Love, Understanding, and Togetherness (LU&T), for no other reason than that it’s Christmas — a brief truce in the war of all against all. That seems like a good thing. So why don’t we do it more often? I think some combination of the following has to be true.
- We are irrational in not arbitrarily increasing the amount of LU&T on other days of the year. We should start sneaking in Christmas-like traditions at appropriate intervals.
- We are irrational in not arbitrarily increasing the amount of LU&T on other days of the year, but unfortunately people are psychologically set up so that they’ll only fall for it once a year.
- The extra LU&T we associate with Christmas is not genuine.
- When we choose to have extra LU&T at Christmas we compromise other important values, or expend resources not worth the diminishing returns of extra Christmases.