New Year’s is looking ahead, not back

By : 
Dr. Jan Meyer
Biker's Diary

The strangest holiday we celebrate, I think, is New Year’s. Tradition tells us that it is time to set resolutions for the coming year. In order to do that, it is necessary to look back. If we do that, it is likely that we will realize we almost never stick to those resolutions anyway.

At some age, that becomes counter-productive, as illustrated in the “Crankshaft” cartoon one year. Crankshaft, his daughter and son-in-law, and son-in-law’s mother, were toasting to another year. He raised his glass and said, “Well, there’s another year, in the books. The other older person in the room said, “I wonder what chapter we’re on?”

Another tradition is that we should stay up to “see the new year in.” I have never yet seen anything happen at midnight that couldn’t have been accomplished much earlier, at a more civilized hour, in the evening! The times I can remember staying up to celebrate were when our next door neighbors in Lincoln, Neb., always urged us to join them as they welcomed the new year in what they described as a Spanish tradition. At midnight, celebrants had to consume 12 grapes, one at a time, but hurriedly so it is done as close to the exact time as possible. I am not sure I ever knew the significance of the grapes or, if I did, I have forgotten over the years, like so many other things. But I do remember that we could have done the same thing at 9 or 10 p.m.

Others seem to have the same problem as I do, of staying up that late. In a “Pickles” strip, Earl and spouse were sitting on the couch, with the grandson lying across the back behind them, watching. Earl was counting down: 11:59 and 57 seconds . . . 11:59 and 59 seconds . . . “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” The grandson said, “You’re supposed to celebrate at midnight, not noon!”

In “Stone Soup,” the family is gathered all around in various pursuits of gaiety. One couple is sitting on the couch, and the husband said to his wife, “It’s midnight somewhere. Can we go to bed now?”

That reluctance to hang out until midnight seems definitely to be age-related. In “Hi and Lois,” the mom, dad and three of the four kids were gathered around the dinner table. Mom raised her glass and said, “Happy New Year!” The three kids said, “This is the best party ever!” “Sparkling cider, ice cream…,” “Whee!” The teen-aged son, standing by the door, said, “But it’s only eight o’clock!”

I haven’t noticed many cartoons about making resolutions for the new year. However, over a wonderful holiday dinner with friends this last weekend, one of them gave each of us a copy of an article described as Steve Jobs’ “final essay.” I decided it was the best advice I’d heard in a long time, and actually was a guideline to making the very best resolutions one could ever consider.

This is what it said: “Steve Jobs died a billionaire at age 56. This is his final essay:

“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In some others’ eyes, my life is the epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, my wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to. At this moment, lying on my bed and recalling my life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in have paled and became meaningless in the face of my death.

“You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you, but you cannot have someone bear your sickness for you. Material things lost can be found or replaced. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost: life. Whichever stage in life you are in right now, with time, you will face the day when the curtain comes down.

“Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well and cherish others. As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that a $300 or a $30 watch both tell the same time. You will realize that your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world. Whether you fly first class or economy, if the plane goes down, you go down with it.

“Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies, and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing-songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth, that is true happiness! Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price. Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise you have to eat medicine as your food.

“The one who loves you will never leave you for another. Even if there are 100 reasons to give up, he or she will find a reason to hold on. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only a few really understand that. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, YOU have to manage!

“The six best doctors in the world are sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence and friends. Maintain them in all stages and enjoy a healthy life.”

That’s good advice, and certainly a good base for resolutions for the next year. Actually, it is a good base for resolutions for life.

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