2016 is Ticking Down

2016 has been a bear of a year. I hope we can all agree on that. I also hope we can agree that we’ll try to make the best of the time we’ve got left this year. 2017 is right around the corner, and I for one am looking forward to it with a sort of quiet desperation. A new year means a new, fresh start. I’m ready.

The new year is a funny thing, really. Our calendars turn over and begin again at January, but actually, December 31st is fundamentally no different from January 1st. It’s another day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and another glorious summer day for those people lucky enough to live in the Southern Hemisphere. I recently read an article somewhere about how humans have more than just the “traditional” five senses. The argument didn’t even have to be particularly compelling in order for me to agree with it. The author simply presented examples of sensory experiences that don’t fit inside the five. For example, our sense of our body’s location in space. That’s proprioception, and it’s a sense. It’s the sense that allows us to touch our left elbow with our right forefinger while keeping our eyes closed. Humans also experience hunger and thirst, which I think we can agree on as things we definitely FEEL, but not with our sense of touch. This article I read recently though, implied that time itself is one of our senses.

Time is tricky. It’s pretty arbitrary. Milliseconds, seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years… we totally define the limits of what time measures. There’s nothing anywhere that says its 10:41 AM on December 16th besides the calendar and clocks that we humans made. We’ve done this so that we can function successfully as a society. Time creates our mutually agreed upon reality.

Nothing can mess with your sense of time like going on vacation. So you pack your suitcases and in no time (haha!) at all, you’re across the country. But wait! Depending on which way you go, you can lose or gain hours! But, that time didn’t actually go anywhere. Your time stream, your experience of it, is contiguous. But all of a sudden it’s a different time than it should be. Boggles the mind, really.

So what’s that all got to do with New Year’s? It’s like this. For the ease of making history and society, we chunk our lives into measurable parts. We agree that January 1st is the start of something new. By the end of December, many of us feel tired and run down by the events of the year. With the start of the new year, many of us feel refreshed and energized. How does this happen? Psychology, my friends! Because of the ‘new start to the new year’ we can trick our brains into feeling like we’re at the beginning of something rather than at the end. And all the parties probably don’t hurt. I for one will be celebrating the end of 2016 with many sequins and bright colors. And then January 2nd I’ll probably break every last one of my New Year’s resolutions.

Posted: Monday, December 26, 2016