Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011: Can It Really Be?

Yes, it is 2011. January 1 to be precise.

You probably never knew this, but on this day in 1622 the Pope decided to make January the first month of the year and, surprise, January 1 is now the first day of the year. Up till then March 25 had been the beginning of the year. Don't ask me why. Probably something to do with spring break.

Wouldn't it be great if you had the power to just change the calendar so everyone else went by your schedule? What day would you make the first day of the year?

Actually, it's probably good that I don't have that kind of power. I would probably make it midsummer and then, because of all the people annoyed with a midsummer First Day of the Year, would change it to midwinter, followed by a lottery in which the new first would be determined randomly every five years or so. Or should we roll a die to decide how often to change it? The whole thing seems like such a hassle and, ultimately, who really cares? When was the last time you wondered why January 1 was the first day of the year? I'm 58 and can't recall asking myself that question once.

January 1st is notable for a number of important events though. I've always known (since I learned about it in history class) that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, in 1863, but I did not know until today that Denmark banned the import of slaves to the Danish West Indies on this day in 1803, the first country to do so. The following year Haiti declared independence from France and became the first independent black republic in the Western Hemisphere. Evidently Napoleon had other things on his plate and chose not to make an issue of it. It took a while for Old Abe to make his move, but you can be sure that when he did there were a lot of folks who quietly said, "It's about time."

On the birthday front, you can add Ernest R Tidyman, Holling Gustav Vapor, Juliusz Luciuk, Bernard Drukker, Victor Reuther, Hubert van Doorne, composer Roland Diggle, and Arthur Hugh Clough, poet friend of Matthew Arnold to your list of first-day-of-the-year babies. You may also add author JD Salinger, E.M. Forster, Barry Goldwater, Betsy Ross and Paul Revere to this list if you need help finding names with greater recognition.

If it seems like I'm just rambling and just grasping at straws for something to write, you're probably correct.

The image at the top of this page was painted in the early seventies when I was an art student at Ohio University. It was titled The Circle of Life, and features an old man with his hand on a wicket. The arrow sliding through the wicket leads to an image of fallopian tubes above which sits the silhouette of a stork. The little series of expanding rectangles becomes the roof of a house and and series of shapes leading to the fingertip of an old man who looks backward over the course of his days. But the energy leads forward through the wicket and the circle of life begins all over again.

So it is with out own lives, I suppose. We live, we share, we pass on our hopes and dreams, life lessons and values to another generation that they might in turn bring something good to a future that one days leaves us behind. As we enter a new year we let go of the past and set our faces forward to the surprising and awesome that lies ahead. May your year be thus... rich with surprises, and events that bring you awe.

Happy New Year.

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