Thursday,25 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013
Thursday,25 April, 2019
Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Beginning or end?

As tragic a year as we have had, a sense of hope and rebirth forces its way into our hearts with the arrival of each New Year.  A new adventure awaits us in the dark blue yonder, intriguing and irresistible.  Like voyagers lost at sea, in our quest of triumphs and treasures, we perceive from afar, a fertile strip of land.  We drop anchor and dock on the shores of 2013.  We step ashore anticipating the delectation of a joyride, of luscious awards, and velvety thrills.  We partake of its many offerings, and feel lucky at this wonderful chance for a new beginning.  Now, we shall right all wrongs, now we shall heal all wounds. This is what we promise ourselves, year after year.  That is how and why we keep surviving, until eternity, or so we hope.

Hope is the magic ingredient, that potent pill, that sweet elixir that lulls our present and brightens our future,

Nothing brings us together as a human race like the New Year.  Universally celebrated with vim and gusto, it is the oldest of man’s holidays, or holy days, as it was in ancient times.  A collective sense of hope infiltrates heaven and earth, as we cling to each other for warmth and support.  Together we move forward, shoulder to shoulder into the darkness of the unknown.

Once celebrated as a religious feast, the New Year was measured by the period in which the earth completes a single revolution around the sun, marking it the start of the agricultural season.

Indulging in food and drink, in feasting and merry-making we continue a sacred tradition started by our ancestors.  By keeping New Year’s Eve the noisiest of nights, we keep away the evil spirits from destroying our harvest.  But what will this harvest bring? We hope a better year than the last. That is the song we sing with every beginning and at every end.  The result is invariably similar, and still we hope.

Though our dying year has been worse than most, there still lies a fervent wish, in the very depth of the human spirit, that better days await us. We still believe in miracles, in goodness and kindness.  Why not join in the merry-making and festive spirit with the rest of the universe?  Why not embrace the New Year with hope and optimism?

Optimists are no fools.  They possess a set of “self-serving illusions” that enable them to maintain good cheer and good health in a universe essentially indifferent to their welfare. Even if their good cheer is unwarranted, it accomplishes more than facing cold reality.

Studies from the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota, show that optimists live longer, their immune system is more effective and they are more likely to seek medical advice, and generally stick to a healthier regimen.

Optimists believe that good things will last.  Pessimists rapidly close the vistas of hope, preventing good things from happening.  Need we say more?

Can pessimists learn to become optimists?  Can they greet the New Year with as much fervour and delight as optimists?

Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, in his book “Learned Optimism”,  discusses how his research team, by working with pessimists, found they were able to adopt social and work skills that helped them avert negative thoughts and reported fewer problems, which leads us to the annual ritual of making New Year Resolutions…. a step psychologists consider positive.

Studies show that a negative frame of mind offers negative solutions. You can treat the barrier of pessimism by boosting your self esteem.  It takes a few weeks of practice and perseverance, but it can be done.  Once optimism is learned and enjoyed, a relapse is unlikely.

Even if you break your New Year resolutions, make them anyway, you just might accomplish them.  If you make none there will be nothing accomplished. If you have a false start, why not try again, success will be yours, sooner or later.  Thoughts can be controlled and trained just like your muscles.

The old year is dying, let it die, and let your bad habits die with it.  Drop an old grudge, share a funny story, reach out to an old friend, pay someone a compliment, forgive an injustice, laugh out loud, all these are positive thoughts adopted by optimists, who enjoy life more and live longer and healthier.

Under our present circumstances it may be hard to look on the bright side, but there’s a new year coming, giving us reason to rejoice despite our state of depression.

Filled with promise, filled with dread, we await the new adventure of 2013.  Here it comes with its abundance of joys and sorrows.  Forget the tragic events of 2012.  Let us ring out this “annus horribilis”, and with it the cruelty, the violence, the bloodshed. Let us ring in peace, compassion, understanding and kindness. If there is one virtue we can wish for above all others, let it be kindness.  Kindness is the message of our traditional New Year song “Auld Lang Syne” or “old long since”, written by the Scottish poet, Robert Burns….let us sing it one more time, and let us and mean it, this time.

Out with the old, we have survived.

In with the new, we shall overcome.

Walk tall, laugh more and make this the best beginning of the best year yet!  

If it is to be, it is up to me. William H. Johnson


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