Best of times ahead
Aside from being one of the best writers in the history of the written word, Charles Dickens gave us such grand opening lines in his “Tale of Two Cities” that they have been employed in other writing to the point of ridiculousness.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …”
Virtually every writer and critic on the planet knows it’s cliché to use these words, yet there they are time and again, and it’s because they are so easily applied to describe a period’s ups and downs, its successes and failures, as well as its good, its bad and its preposterous.
Pick a year, any year, and we can find examples of all these things with virtually no effort. And that is why for the past 4,000 years or so, humanity has looked at the new year as a clean slate and another chance to get it right.
Historians say the ancient Babylonians were the first to come up with an annual calendar, making the spring equinox the first day of the new year. Julius Caesar oversaw a revamping of the calendar so it was more astronomically correct and set January 1 as the new year’s first day.
Assorted revisions to the calendar occurred over the centuries until 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII presided over the creation of what it now known as the Gregorian calendar, which much of the world uses today.
While most of us are not concerned or even aware of whether our timekeeping matches celestial movements, we do believe that having a point when we can hit the reset button and get another opportunity to do better and to get it right is important.
The old year is history, while the new year is hope and resolve. And why we celebrate each new year is because we believe that the best of times lie ahead.