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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life
Column for the weeks of Dec 30 2001 - Jan 12, 2002

The coming of year 2002 is not as memorable as ushering in a new millennium like we did in 2000, nor as exciting as the Y2K scare of 2001. Still this New Year gives us much to reflect upon considering the vulnerability we became aware of with the events in this past September.

Celebrating the New Year is an ancient custom dating back 4000 years to the Babylonians. It had something to do with a New Moon and Vernal Equinox and such, but exactly why they selected this time of year to celebrate is not really known. It seems to have no real agricultural significance and that's what most people planned their lives around in those days. Maybe it was a slow time of year and they just wanted to party! And party they did for eleven days. Various cultures continued these customs but since the calendars were always being tampered with it wasn't until Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar in 46 B.C. that January 1 became the New Year. Of course in order to get the whole thing synchronized, the previous year had to last 445 days, but that's a different story.

Ushering in the New Year is celebrated in various ways by different cultures. Some Moslems wear new clothes. Some Asians release birds and turtles. Some Japanese eat rice cakes. Some Hindus leave shrines next to their beds. Then some countries such as Thailand, Nigeria, Uganda, and Cambodia temporarily depose their kings and set up temporary kings. In Scotland the old year is banished by making a dummy and parading it through town. Then it is buried, drowned or burned. The dummy is called (and I take great offense at this) the Auld Wife.

When America and Great Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, January 1st became our New Year's Day, too. In the U.S. we usher in the new year by watching the Tournament of Roses parade, watching football, having parties, and listening to Dick Clark (who was probably at the first Babylonian celebration but doesn't look a day over 50) count "ten, nine, eight, seven, etc…" until a lighted ball falls to the ground in Times Square. And of course we make resolutions.

Making New Year's resolutions that we don't intend to keep is the great American pastime. I say "American" pastime because people who live in countries who don't have enough to eat and whose only thought is how can we stay alive just one more day don't have the luxury of resolving to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy, make more money and quit smoking, which are the top resolutions everyone makes every year. But if you feel you're in a rut, you can find a website for almost any kind of resolution you are interested in. There are resolution sites for astrologers, dog owners, cat owners, Internet junkies, orthodontists, talk show fans, business owners, genealogists, reunion planners, mothers, portfolio people, and my personal favorite, a site for people who don't have time to make their own resolutions.

Why not resolve to do something you really can do? Be nicer! Be kinder! You might stop smoking. You might become a svelte size 6. You may eat tofu and wheat grass and live to be 100. You might even gain riches beyond your wildest dreams. But if you are a disagreeable, grumpy, self consumed, grudge holding, bigoted, humorless, back biting, angry, envious, unsupportive, cantankerous person, WHO CARES what you accomplish?

The Biblical principle is to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 7:12) Would you like to see people happy, giving, sharing, forgiving, and caring? It all starts with one person and ripples out to thousands of others. Now I'm not saying you can accomplish it all in one year. In fact you have to take it one day at a time. You might start by smiling. Then you might do some random act of kindness. Then you might say, "Please" or "Thank you." Then you might open the door for someone who has his hands full. It's the type of resolution you can renew daily. (2 Corinthians 4:16) If you blow it, just start all over again. Hey, everyday is the beginning of a new year.

In the words of a card I once received, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Don't blow it!" But if you do, resolve to start all over again because "Today is the first day of the rest of your life!"


©December 2001

Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bydahlgren@aol.com.



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