How to Calculate a New Year

To calculate a new year or any other kind of newness, you must have some idea of oldness too. New is not new unless there’s an old. This truth requires a sense of a trajectory between one and the other, as well as a direction, so you must have some idea of a beginning in your new year reckoning. Calculations, like language, happen via a linear trajectory no matter how many forking paths it might take to get from A to B. A line is a line. This will be your main problem when determining a beginning: that temporality does not exist in the way your tools of calculation and language assume it to exist. There’s nothing linear about it. There are no beginnings. However, by wanting to calculate a new year I assume you imagine some sort of temporal line upon which you might locate your new year. Good. You will have to think like this when discussing a start. If you cannot see time as linear for this project, try to stop reading between the lines.

To find the proper beginning of a year, be on the lookout for nothing. At the start of something there is nothing beforehand, or nothing much, and as you are at the moment beset by everything, finding nothing will be a great challenge. If it helps, remember that nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could, as we are told by the great philosophers Aristotle and Julie Andrews, and though both had the luxury of plenty of time to spend pondering how to solve a problem, you might have very little time available to you to do the same: a new year may start whenever it likes. What if it’s now? Is it now? It might be now.

New years often have much to do with light and its sibling, temperature. O light and temperature, lean closer to us and you are the creator of the plants that provide everything: food, food for food. O plants, you’ll breathe what we won’t, and exhale the good stuff back. It’s nice. But O dearest light and also temperature, when you move away you are the destroyer, freezing us out, dancing shiva on vegetable graves. It’s a good thing everything is temporary.

Watch the light, the big important one, and stand in the same place every time. Where does it pop up? Or down, the light may be coming or going, what’s important is to be present for this movement every day so you can remember the spot. Put something in your sight line to hold the place for comparison with the next day. Be sure to pick something that will not move. You will see that the light travels one way or the other a little each day. Note when it reaches the end of its road and holds still for a day or two before moving back the other direction. This end which is also a beginning would make an exceptional moment for marking your new year, particularly if you are hoping to choose one you might share with others thinking along the same lines.

To avoid conflict, however, as wars have been declared over much less, you may wish to choose a start to your year that is more personally relevant and perhaps even private or secret.  Which of your closest trees will bud first? Maybe this moment is your new year? Perhaps it will be the first appearance in spring of a favorite bird, or a happy animal after a long winter, or even a moody one: the creature’s feelings need not be relevant to your task and though you might wish to listen to what they have to say, the final determination is yours. As such, you could choose the anniversary of a personally momentous occasion, possibly a joyful one or one in which you became exiled in wretchedness. This may prove your only option. You may have nothing else.