30 December 2008

Rite of Way

I've only got one chance at this, so I'm taking it now; it's nearly a new year, and I can't very well just let that slip by without my acknowledging it.

Rites and rituals all around this time of year, after all. It seems that everyone has their vision of the perfect holiday season -- a white Christmas, a warm fireplace, a creamy hot chocolate on a crisp winter night. Gathering with family, or with friends, or curling up alone and dwelling on the events that have gone before us, and those which lay ahead. A quiet contemplation or a raucous year-end bash blasting music until dawn.

Each of these is a personal journey, and one into which we invite our loved ones, our friends, our colleagues. We all form our own ideal, and attempt to achieve that alongside those with whom our ideals may clash, may coincide, may be alien to. Rites and rituals, storied traditions and emergent trends, and always a call to the past with each frosted breath curling foglike into the air. We seek to embrace the future, ever hoping that it will outshine the past, never mindful of the fact that we perform these rotes in cyclical repetition, always thinking that this time, it has to make things better, make things bigger, make things greater than they have been. We always seem to hold to the childlike faith that "someday" is better than "today" and that when the clock strikes 12 and a new year unfurls in moments, hours, breaths ... that the change must be for the better, that we can leave behind each unpleasant memory and unwanted regret, and that we cast aside all that which has passed in favor of a new, improved existence.

Rites and rituals, whether we come together as a group and celebrate the successes of a year well spent, or stare coldly into the stars above alone and pondering the breadth of our own mental landscape as we feel the spinning of the wheel bringing us back around for another try, another turn at making the most of our 365-day lifespan. We turn our eyes to the heavens, or to the TVs blaring garish throngs of screaming revelers waiting for a ball that dropped two, three hours hence, to displays around the globe of partiers rushing headlong into the unknown, we turn our eyes to the faces of our families both here and gone, to eyes that once held that same youthful exuberance, to eyes which strain against the growing time-worn wisdom, to eyes which flare and sparkle and burn for something better, for something forgotten, for something not yet known.

It is not often that, through our disparate cultures, we approach an event as a planet, as a race of people rather than people of different races. This moment, this crease in time, transcends our nations and our religions, upends our fractuous desire for unique identity for a moment to connect with all around us, to bring together neighbors and friends and strangers and enemies and everything in between, shedding our petty disputes if only for the few weighted moments that it takes to say, "Happy new year".

Rites, rituals, rememberance; 2008 draws itself closed to the tides of time, and a new dawn bears down upon us. Let us hold to the hope that it will be a better one, and let us, in our own ways, live our prayer to see a brighter tomorrow.