Arbitrary & Essential

January 1, 2022


I’ve never been a fan of New Years. It’s such an arbitrary celebration. The January 1st date was decided by Julius Caesar in 46 BC when he imposed a shift from the Roman calendar to his Julian calendar. Prior to this, the new year was celebrated at various points in history on December 25, March 1, March 25, and the movable date of Easter. The only thing that makes sense about the January 1st date is Caesar choosing it to honor Janus, the god of gateways and beginnings and for whom January is named.

There is nothing in this particular date that aligns with any of the Earth or Sun cycles that have been central to celebrations in so many traditions. Seems both arbitrary and meaningless from that perspective.

But now, as a date celebrated around the world, it holds the meaning we give it. And that meaning is essential. We live our lives in cyclical celebrations that mark an anniversary of events. We live our lives in cyclical celebrations of the sacred. So it makes sense that we give ourselves one day every year to contemplate the past year and set our intentions for a new one. Of course this could happen on any day of the year…but we have collectively agreed that January 1st is that day. Now that energy is embedded in the collective consciousness and anything that calls the collective to reflection and contemplation is a good thing. John O’Donohue captures this beautifully in his piece For A New Beginning.

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Indeed. There is a world that awaits us. Embracing that opening, trusting the promise of that opening is essential.

Judith –