The Cult of New Year’s: Delusion, Pandemonium and Hedonism

This date of 31st December – which in essence is like any other unremarkable, run-of-the-mill day in the western calendar, in so much that it is has a span of 24 hours, beginning with a sunrise and a sunset in between – has actually been elevated into a cult.

It has been fashioned into an extraordinary day carrying excessive symbolic value, simply on the basis that it is the day and night preceding the beginning of the New Year on the Gregorian calendar – which obviously, like any modern man-made calendar is a construction from a chosen point in time, in this case after the birth of Christ (AD), and not actually the 31st/01st of the year since the dawn of human civilisation.

But even if I discard this fact, there are still other interesting revelations about human behaviour and the importance this day is bestowed.

Firstly, let me be transparent. I too, in the haze and romanticism of youth have been part of the New Year’s brigade about three times (mostly due to a combination of conformity and curiosity rather than any real pleasure) and also fallen victim to the ‘new year, new start’ philosophy that is the root of it all.

It was not long before I sensed the futility of it all, and so my thoughts on this have been brewing for quite a few years now. As the New Year’s Eve commotion creeps upon me yet again, I am compelled to begin to write this. And the first words that come to mind when thinking about this event are simply: delusion, hedonism and pandemonium.

Delusion

Why does the routine turning of the day, specifically of a date from 31 to 01 or from 2018 to 2019 mean, or in any way make it more likely than I will suddenly begin to live my life any differently to how I have done so for the past year, or years prior to the advent of this numerical play?

I would like to think it will. But in actuality, it is too weak of a symbol to be able to jolt most people into action.

Why then, do we feel obligated – as has become the custom – to make unrealistic vows or set resolutions that are mostly a list of predictable, narcissistic goals related to rapid weight loss, saving money, relationship goals, changing jobs, quitting addictions, or guiltily moralising over one’s responsibility over the environment.

I believe this is because they are a result of a novelty event which in reality is unable to hold any real authority over us. Evidently, once the euphoria of the date change has faded from memory, these superficial promises are then gradually discarded along with the guilt at not having fulfilled them. In it’s place, human weakness and old habits re-emerge, maybe people slide back into toxic liaisons with strangers initiated through Instagram DMs, or secretly gorge on king-sized bags of Maltesers at 2 a.m., moaning about the same 9-5 office grind that has been crushing their breakdancing dreams for the past 14 years, chewing copious amounts of gum to mask their toxic breath stench of coffee and cigarettes (Stoptober didn’t work), or ‘detoxing’ with weekend diets of junk American TV box sets – violent medieval fantasy porn and apocalyptic vampires/zombies seems to hit the spot.

Nothing changes. This feeble attempt at changing what are in fact, deeply rooted habits is then repeated the next year with the same delusion of success. Alas, it will just be yet another exercise in false hope and self-delusion. The kind that is perhaps best left for the mobs of naïve, starry-eyed teenagers chanting ‘I wanna be forever young’ in unison at a New Year’s Eve pop concert.

The harsh reality (which of course most people either consciously ignore or are innately unable to recognise) is that quick fixes based on concepts such as hope and optimism are not the same as brutally honest self-critique, which can lead to more enduring transformations. For instance, rapid weight loss set as a goal in itself is problematic, because even with some success, one may end up getting fat again. Instead, a more honest examination of one’s habits and lifestyle and a long-term change geared towards an overall change in fitness philosophy would be much more constructive and long-lasting.

But, why is there only one pre-set day that compels us into some level of introspection and is reserved for resolutions in the first place?

My point is this: If I have not taken, or am not taking drastic and urgent action to transform my life in a substantial, meaningful and sustained manner RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW on the 12th of whatever month, because I feel it is absolutely necessary then the chances of some superficial change of date kick-starting it any time soon won’t either.

Everyday is New Years Day if I truly want to change.

Pandemonium

Why is noise valued over silence in life? I really don’t know. But New Year’s Day literally has to arrive with a bang. Don’t you know, it’s the unwritten law.

By this I refer to the plethora of roadside bombs set off in succession so that they detonate in the sky for a few seconds – I think they’re called fireworks. Governments love to impose so-called ‘austerity’ measures that last for years and whose repercussions paralyse the most vulnerable, yet they can fund bombs (well, obviously the killer phosphorus kind, but also these cheaper more colourful variety). And, most interestingly, the so-called ‘liberals’ of the voting population who usually begin to twitch at the sight of a discarded bag for life are very happy to singalong with their politicians and bankroll the simply ostentatious and environmentally destructive nature of public New Year’s Eve entertainment.

They usually takes place with a monumental, nationalistic landmark in the background filled with revellers who have been queuing for hours. Images of this supposed grand occasion – incidentally no less identical to the previous years – flash across TV news and media channels around the world in a collage comparing Sydney with London with Paris with New York in a strange unspoken global contest to see which city had the most aesthetic or loudest ones.

This is our civilisation at its finest. Hordes of us mesmerised by loud artificial and polluting colourful bombs in the sky, yet oblivious to the lonely pink rose waiting in the garden for someone, anyone, to spare a moment and smell it’s fragrance.

Fireworks impact on the environment on the agenda tonight anyone? No, sir. No trees were cut as far as we know. They may have cried along with the frightened puppies, but they’ll get over it.

By the way, the noise has now been banned in the Galapagos in order to protect the endangered wildlife.

Hedonism

Inevitably the idea of welcoming the New Year and bidding farewell to the previous year brings celebration. Yet, only minorities treat this as a quiet, meaningful, or contemplative celebration of life that has passed. On the contrary, masses seize this as an excuse to gather in public spaces and revel in hedonistic behaviour and fanfare to display their apparently uncontrollable joy.

Are there not already enough events – such as the victory of the red team over the blue team – where the tribal and bestial nature of man is given free reign to express itself fully?

Are the excesses of champagne, gourmet dinners, singing merrily and dancing till the early hours of the morning in the town square an expression of the sheer bliss that is felt at celebrating the possibilities of the New Year that await, and because life has been lived fully – or that ample opportunities have been created to do so? Or is the overindulgence there to compensate for the pain of the previous year, to wipe from memory the broken resolutions, hopes and dreams in preparation for the same?

Either way, hedonism complements the pandemonium on New Years Eve, in preparation for the delusion to follow for the New Year.

Maybe I’m a killjoy who needs a real good party.

And if only I would wake up crouched in the foetal position outside a public toilet soaked in a cocktail of celebratory ribeye steak and vodka jello shots with my wallet missing, after ripping my vocal cords for the New Years Eve countdown – I’d know what I’m missing.

Then I would be able to say, this was the best night of my life (from the bits I could remember) an amazing start for my New Years resolutions, and update my followers on Snapchat of this.

#NoFilter #NYEParis2018 #Fireworks #ForeverYoung Woohoo! Bring on 2019 Gonna be MY year.