Saturday, December 31, 2005

Sad old year

Cliche n. 1 : a trite phrase or expression; also : the idea expressed by it; 2 : a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation; 3 : something (as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace

The trouble I have with New Year's - in fact, the trouble I have with all festivals, special occassions, etc. - is cliche. Every year I make a sort of New Year pre-resolution - I resolve that I shall actually try to take this whole celebrating New Year thing seriously, I resolve that I shall make resolutions, shall shout Happy New Year loudly into the telephone everytime someone calls - even if it's a wrong number. Every year I promise myself that this is the year I'm not going to be my usual curmudgeonly self.

Like any good New Year resolution, this one usually lasts till about 10 in the morning on the 1st of January. By that time the tiresome repetition of the old formula has begun to get to me (what was it Dylan Thomas said: "I have longed to move away / From the hissing of the spent lie....I have longed to move away / From the repetition of salutes"), I've got to the point where my instinctive reaction to people wishing me a "Happy and Prosperous New Year" is: "Why do you think that will happen? Where's the empirical evidence?"

Holiday celebrations are not just cliched - which would imply merely creative exhaustion - they are actively anti-creative, that is to say they are built on the premise that traditions and formulas deserve to be celebrated. My problem with such Pavlovian glee is that it always seems to me to be a negation of the reasoning self, an insult to human intellect. We couldn't possibly find the imagination or intelligence to connect to those around us in a meaningful way [1], every trite doggerel that rhymes 'health' with 'wealth' seems to say to me, we are not conscious beings in control of our own destiny, capable of making choices, we are merely conditioned systems of stimulus and response. This may very well be true, of course, but that's no reason to flaunt or celebrate it.

The point is that by being anti-social and Scrooge-like on holidays I'm not simply being the bitter old man that I am - I'm actually striking a blow for the Dignity of Man, I'm trying to take back our rightful place in the firmament of thought. So there.

So if you really must, you and your disgustingly trite family go and have a happy and prosperous new year full of health, wealth and mocha cappucinos - just don't tell me about it.


[1] People will tell you that the New Year's and other such frivolous occassions are a great time to reconnect with people you've lost touch of. I'm all for that - it's just that I don't see how calling someone once a year and shouting Happy New Year at them and having them shout it back to you constitutes staying in touch with an actual person. I mean, my answering machine could do as much.


Crp said...

Well, New Years Day is just another event invented by the marketing gurus of the West.

In India on the other hand no festival is complete unless every celebrant has had gulal thrown into his eye or an alu bomb thrown at his face... such things never get cliched.

Moka said...

I found your blog by searching Sad Old Year on Blog Search Google. Haha, I completeley agree with everything you said. That is exactly how I feel!

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

ah just when i was feeling less hopeful about the lack of pessimism in the world...your post was "optimistic" for the fellow cynics and pessimists of the world!
:D:D Unravel the inherent paradox and may more profound posts come forth from the mighty laptop of yours!

Ah yes..HAPPY NEW YEAR D00D! :P :)

Falstaff said...

crp: Hmmm...when you put it that way, maybe I should be happy about it being cliched.

moka / girish: Thanks.

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