Exactly what is new in the New Year?
Verily in the heavens and the earth … in the creation of yourselves, and that animals are scattered (through the earth)… and in the change of the winds, are signs for those who are wise” (Q45:3-5).
Thus the story comes to an end- the story of 2017; and thus we arrive at the beginning of another story- the story of 2018. The beginning and ending of a year, be it the Islamic (today is 11th of Rabi al-Akhir, 1439 A.H) or the Gregorian, usually occasion some sense of anxiety in men and women of intellect and understanding. To begin a new year is to begin a journey one is not sure of completing; to end a year is to enter into some psycho-spiritual trepidation.
The beginning and ending of a year, instead of being a source of infantile indulgence in celebration and perfidious revelry, should be occasions for sober reflections. It should awaken in us the necessity to take stock of our failings; it should afford the opportunity to reconnect with our Creator and repair what we have unwittingly destroyed in our spiritual capitals. But to the majority occasions like this are for fun and merry-making.
Suddenly, the cathedrals are filled to the brim; all of a sudden the mosques are ‘invaded’ by those who never visited them twelve months before. On a daily basis we constantly assume that access to the bounties of the Almighty can be likened to the computer key board- ‘press and enter’. We indulge ourselves in the empty thought that we can harvest where we did not sow; that we can be enrobed with honour despite the iniquitous life that we live. Thus there they go on the night of the 31st of December searching for the “face” of He whose Will they have abandoned for twelve months. There they go making New Year resolutions. I ask Oscar Wilde exactly what New Year resolutions means. He says “good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.” How could you insert your credit card into an ATM machine in the knowledge your account is in the red and still hope to draw hundreds of currencies?
I say: exactly what is new in the New Year? This question agitated my mind early this morning. I wanted to know what is new in the new month, in the new day. I wanted to feel happy, like my neighbour, to be merry, to indulge in self-love. I sought to know exactly where the train carrying the year 2017 would empty its content, its happiness, its sadness. I wanted to know exactly how many of us witnessed its arrival in 2016; I crave to know how many of us are at this station, the train station of 2017, waiting to bid it bye as it departs. Yes. 2017 is departing. But to where? Where is 2017 going?
Could it be that contrary to our assumption, 2017 is nothing but a sign, a signifier the signified being ourselves. We are actually the ones at the train station. We are the ones waiting to depart. We are the ones who have accumulated the nights and days; we are the ones who have exhausted three hundred and sixty five out of the days allocated to us when we began our journeys from our fathers’ loins into our mothers’ wombs before our arrival to this world. We are the ones at the train stations of life and living. We are the ones arriving even as others are departing.
Thus waiting to chance upon that magical moment when 2017 would depart and yield space to 2018 is like waiting to know exactly at what moment shall we pause to exhaust one breadth before taking another one. Trying to know exactly at what moment would the year 2018 begin its own journey is like trying to know exactly at what time does the day mesh into the night. It is like trying to know exactly what colour or complexion has happiness and sadness. It is like seeking to experience the beatitude of the celestial space while we are still bogged down in the morass and in the insuperable conditions of the terrestrial.
I soon came to the conclusion that nothing is new in the New Year except the new things and experience we invest it with. The New Year is nothing but an open book given to us by He in whose hands lie the portents of the heavens and the earth. The New Year is nothing but the new breadth we take of life and give to life. Nothing is new in the New Year but the new visions we have of and for ourselves and our world. The New Year is neither a beginning nor an end for in the reckoning of His Majesty, the Almighty, there is no beginning nor an end. Ironically however, the New Year shall be, for some, the beginning of the end the same way the outgoing was the end for some of our compatriots. To be alive to witness the “departure” of 2017 therefore is to be lucky and be privileged. For it is not by our choice or decision we found ourselves on this train, the train of life; it is not by our choice or decision we are changing this train (2017) in order to ride in the train of 2018; it is not going to be by our choice or decision when we shall be made to disembark from the train of life.
Brethren, let us therefore begin to live our lives fully and in the knowledge that we may arrive the ‘station’, the station of dis-embarkment sooner than we imagine. Let us equally work assiduously for life as if our destination is as distant as that of Prophet Nuh who lived for nothing less than nine hundred and fifty (950) years. The Prophet of Islam (s.a.w) says “ work for this life as if you are never going to die; work for your hereafter as if your death certificate has been signed and only waiting to be delivered”.
It shall be a New Year indeed when the roads are fixed and our hospitals cease being mortuaries. It shall be a New Year indeed when Christians become Christ-like inside and outside the Churches and Muslims becomes real Muslims in line with their Quranic destiny. It shall be a New Year worthy of these celebrations when this atrocious narcissism is excised from our politics and the lone ranger in the fight against corruption begins to have friends from among the oxen and foxes. What a New Year that would be when cats become friends to rats and the rich stop counting their wealth by the sheer number of the poor in the neighborhood.
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