Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

New year, new month, new day, new you? Not really. I divulge.

It's that time of the year again, where the old is gone and the new is here or about to arrive*. Gone are the celebrity deaths of yesteryear, the political traumas and close calls of Australian elections, the dabbing and the bottle flipping, the momentous bandwagon of mannequin poses (AKA what I do every morning when my alarm clock blares out), the grand final defeats and victories, Kevin Rudd's tilt at world domination, any blog posts that I wrote or you read. They're all in the past, behind that thick membrane of a wall that separates 11:59pm 31st December 2016 from 12:00am 1st January 2017.

And since everything is new again, that means that you are too. Or you can be if you get this new fitness band or smartphone app or book or dot dot dot. But you better act quick, because this opportunity (and these low prices) literally only come around once a year. You've only got a few days left to make your new year resolutions, if that period of time hasn't already ceased (probably by the time I've published this anyway).

And since everything is new again, that means that you are too.

That's if you believe in all that new year stuff. Judging by my sarcastic tone (did that come across in my prose?), you might have guessed that I don't.

To put it simply, new year's and all the resolutions are a bourgeoisie myth. I use bourgeoisie here to feel smart and to refer to the middle class and then to enable me to refer to Roland Barthes to feel even smarter** . Bourgeoisie myths are what Barthes believes are a large part of structuring our world. The word 'myth' is not used here to refer to the Zeus and Thor sense of the world (i.e. the mythologies of ancient cultures) but rather the things our contemporary culture believes which are not necessarily true, or are only true because we have made them facts. I use it sort of like the Mythbusters sense of the word.

But the Mythbusters never busted New Year's Day. Not like I'm about to do.

So let's start off this myth busting with a Barthes quote: "myth is constituted by the loss of the historical quality of things: in it, things lose the memory that they were once made" (p.142 of Mythologies).

"myth is constituted by the loss of the historical quality of things: in it, things lose the memory that they were once made." (Barthes)

Something that was once made (by humans no doubt) is the idea of New Year's Day. Yes I know, very obvious, and you're probably wondering why you're letting me tell you that when you could be buying an app that helps you complete your new year resolution that is to give the honest answer of "yes" to the question of, "do you even lift, bruh?". Ah hem.

The calendar we currently use is the Gregorian Calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in October 1582. Whether that is the October of the Gregorian Calendar, or the October of the Julian Calendar, which it replaced due to being 0.002% better (that's a fact), I do not know. Rumour has it that Pope Gregory XIII initially wanted to have thirteen months in each year to match his title, but he settled for having the calendar named after him (and the preceding twelve Gregories).

I just made that rumour up, just like P. Gregs in da hirteenth helped make up the years, months, days and nights we use now. So my point is, the concept of a year and those things which make up a year, are human inventions. They copy the physical world, yes, but they are made to do so, in order to be more accurate and allow us to keep track of time. These numbers (what we call dates) have evolved into a language, one that's matched to the rising and setting of the sun. A language embedded in the things of physis (nature).

P. Gregs in da thirteenth helped make up the years, months, days and nights we use now.

In the example of New Year's Day, the thing that is made up is the transition between two things (most recently, 2016 and 2017).

Transitions are funny old things. On the topic of transitions in film, The Nerdwriter says that, "life's transitions are harder to navigate than those in film or a video essay, but all of them have to be persuasive and persuasion is about more than the words or the images or the ideas you use, it's also about how you connect them".

That connection, that persuasion, is, as with all myth, made through language: the clock ticks over from 11:59:59 and hits twelve and the few silent spaces between the cries of "Happy New Year" are filled by the banging crash of fireworks. We use language to connect the old year to the new year while extinguishing the former: the language of time and dates, the tradition — the bourgeoise myth — of wishing everyone a happy new year, the singing of Auld Lang Syne, and with the vows we make, like a wedding, in our resolutions ("I do solemnly promise to lose ten pounds by the end of the year", "I do solemnly promise to stop using antiquated imperial systems of measurement".)

TL;DR: New Year's Day is an artificial transition between one normal day and the next, constructed through the language of dates and greetings and fireworks.

If we have constructed dates and years, and the transitions between them all, it would be reasonable to suggest that a new year does not mean a new you. Sorry, but that's made up too. Does that mean that you can't use a capitalist bourgeoisie myth to improve yourself?

Incorrect, the good news (other than this) is that is exactly what you can do; you can use the new year and its resolutions to make yourself a better person.

Even better, this change or improvement doesn't have to be dictated to us by an annual. Even worser, change is hard at any time of the year. Sometimes it's better to Don't Think, Do.

Just as Christmas can be everyday for you, so too can New Year's Day — and all the good stuff that comes with it, minus the fireworks. Sad face.


*I wrote and aimed to publish this blog post last week when resolutions were at a yearly high.

**I'll insert in here a disclaimer that I'm not (quite) smart enough to understand (all of) Roland Barthes' arguments and findings.

Some quotes on myth by Roland Barthes // and some thoughts. All are from his book, Mythologies // thoughts are from my head.
  • "what is the meaning of myth? To transform meaning into form." // The meaning is that you can make yourself better, the form is New Year's Day and its marketing potential.
  • "Silence...appearing as the only possible weapon against the major power of myth: it's recurrence." // New Year's Eve is bound to recur (unless it's one of those years where the world's ending, like 2012), so it's an very difficult myth to counter.
  • "Practiced on a national scale, bourgeoise norms are experienced as the evident laws of a natural order." // Practiced on an international scale, this natural order is perceived as always existing.
  • Myth has the "task of giving an historical invention a natural justification and making contingency appear eternal". // In theory, there is no limit to our system of numbers and, since these are the symbols we use to mark our years, they too have an unlimited potential.
  • "Myth economises intelligence: it understands reality more cheaply." // The reality is that it's hard to make ourselves better, but the myth of New Year's Day twists this reality by teaching us that we are able to make ourselves better — at least one time every year.
  • "Whatever its mistakes, mythology is certain to participate in the making of the world." // True dat.

Photo of my Week

Where I post a photo that sums up an aspect of my week.

This is the first picture I took for this year. It's a real shame really, I should have made 2017's first picture a really good one. But I.... obviously haven't read my blog post because it doesn't really matter. First picture of the year? Yeah, well Pope Grego Episode XIIV made all that stuff up and I don't care.

As long as every picture I make is better than the last, I'm not going to complain. That's my resolution for 2017 the foreseeable future. Which I need a calendar to help foresee....

Joel Gibson

Read more posts by this author.

Perth, Western Australia


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