Friday, December 31, 2010


Yes, I'll make resolutions as 2011 appears on the horizon. I too will "resolve" to do things better, to exercise more, to whine less, to be more grateful. I'll follow this tradition dating back thousands of years to be a better person. The ancient Babylonians, credited with starting the resolution tradition, are said to have most frequently resolved to return borrowed farm equipment. That's funny.

The Oxford English Dictionary traces this definition of "resolve" to a late middle English word that means to dissolve, disintegrate, or solve a problem. The ancestor of this word is the Latin "resolvere," which is composed of "re," which expresses intensive force, and "solvere," which is to loosen. So, ultimately my act to resolve is to forcefully loosen something. I like that definition. I'm going to forcefully loosen my attachment to anger, to sloth, and to excess. That sounds do-able.

Wondering why resolutions are typically made at the beginning of the year, I discovered lots of intriguing things. One is that the beginning of the new year has changed a number of times. Before Julius Caesar, the new year was on the vernal equinox, the re-birth of greenery in springtime. Caesar made January 1st the beginning of the year on his Julian calendar. That worked for awhile until a church council in 567 thought new year celebrations were too rowdy and so abolished January 1st as the beginning of the year. The new year was celebrated on a number of dates in the Christian world for the next 1,000 years, with Dec 25th and Easter dates sometimes being dubbed "New Year's Day." The milestone settled on January 1st in the 16th century. I think it's fascinating that bodies can make such decisions. Seems like tracking a new year along with the tilt of the earth would be the most logical.

Folks all over the globe review their lives at year's end and start a new year fresh. Resolutions are accompanied with lots of interesting gestures, from jumping seven waves, throwing flowers in the sea and lighting candles in the sand, to exchanging gifts, burning Christmas trees, kissing loved ones, and scrubbing the house. Noises are important in many new year's celebrations, including fireworks, noisemakers, and bells, originating, it's said, from the need to drive evil spirits away. A Buddhist tradition is to ring gongs 108 times, representing 108 human frailties. The Greeks ring bells 12 times, as they eat 12 grapes, representing the year's months.

One of the most intriguing new year's customs I discovered is wearing underwear of a certain color: Mexican women who would like to get married in the coming year wear red underwear and those who are pregnant wear pink underwear to bring good luck to the baby.

So tonight I think I'll join humans around the globe at this important pivot. I think I'll wear green underwear (to help me act more environmentally sound); I think I'll eat 12 olives; I think I'll jangle my new wind chimes 12 times; I think I'll kiss my sweetie and then my dog; I think I'll make firm my resolve to forcefully loosen three of my attachments. This will head me in the right direction for 2011.

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