New Years has always been a weird time for me. I don’t think I’ve ever quite wrapped my head around the whole concept. I don’t understand that even though we have a holiday that is explicitly centered around new beginnings, it’s implicitly centered around the futility of change.
Let me explain:
Every year we hear the same mantra over and over. That this year was terrible and next year will hopefully be better. That we might finally accomplish some of those goals that we keep putting off. Reinvent ourselves. Start anew. And while this all sounds invigorating and refreshing, every year tends to end up the same with everyone I talk to. A year full of missed opportunity and wasted potential. Every year we hear repeated “and I thought last year was bad”. A year where we were supposed to become new people and ended up staying the same. No matter how much hope people have every year that it will be different, it seldom is.
I don’t think this is really a bad thing, it’s more of a challenge. Nihilism is a philosophy that states: “life has no intrinsic meaning or value.” This is a very difficult worldview to swallow because humanity believes life to be inherently valuable. But when one looks at the world around them and considers the futility we tend to see, nihilism is easy to conclude. It’s a philosophy that I disagree with. Albert Camus was a French philosopher who popularized the concept of the “absurd”. This philosophy exists almost as an answer to nihilism. Essentially, it was Camus’ belief that even if life is “meaningless”, that fact alone gave it meaning. If we are to live in a world where everything is awful and we have no inherent meaning, then our inherent meaning is to fight against the meaningless. To make good lives out of bad situations. To live in rebellion to the world that gives us nothing. Nihilism states emphatically that “everything is meaningless!”. Absurdism agrees and says that is why we exist.
Which brings me to the concept of New Years resolutions. These resolutions have a lot in common with absurd philosophy. We constantly strive for goals that we often don’t reach. But this striving is part of the human condition. We struggle against what often seems to be an unwinnable battle. And through these failures, we end up growing.
This corresponds significantly with a lot of Christian theology. If you believe that humanity struggles with sin, consistent failure makes sense. We are destined for failure. No matter what, we can never hit the mark we are striving for, and we always feel out of place. We have been corrupted from the start and we know that we are not complete. I love a quote from C.S. Lewis that says, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” This foundation acts as a cornerstone for most Christian realization, whether we are aware of it or not. The first step in salvation is always realizing you need to be saved.
New Years resolutions can do a lot of good for people. Regardless of whether or not they actually fulfill them, setting them can help us grow and mature. People need goals to strive for. People need morality that they adhere to. If we never come to a realization that we don’t meet the mark, how can we ever grow and learn? It’s the bad things that happen in life that make us realize that things can be better. It is our failures that make us realize we can improve.
Don’t be ashamed if you have not done a lot of growing recently. But always be striving to grow. Failure is an essential stepping stone in succeeding.
“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” -Albert Camus.