A new year

A new year

At the end of each year it has become a tradition to evaluate the past year and write about expectations from the coming one. Scenarios about the country, the region and the world are being specified in newspapers and columns. This year I will restrain myself from doing this for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the “beginning” and “end” of a year are completely relative. While in our culture Dec. 31 is the end of a year, it is Jan. 28 in China and March 21 in Iran. From this point of view, the concepts of “previous year” and “new year” lose their meanings, as people start and end the year at different times. 

If there must be a comparison between the “old” and the “new,” Jan. 20 is a much more meaningful date in this sense. On that day the new American president will take over the seat and ignite change for our country, our region and the world. But Jan. 20 is only specific date among many others.

Secondly, we are used to making comparisons. We have been “built” on this mentality, raised and educated this way. We are therefore used to looking and seeing this way. But actually change is happening at every moment. So it is not right to fix change to a specific date. 

Time is not a linear, but a cyclical concept. Many civilizations in the past used to evaluate time quite differently from us. The Mayan civilization was one. According to them, time was circular. There were no beginnings and no endings. There were only successive incidents. And a new age used to start every 52 years, as they discovered that the planets are positioned at exactly the same degree every 52 years.

Considering time from this angle, the concepts of “old” and “new” also disappear. Time appears as a succession of moments. Nothing starts and nothing ends. Everything continues at every moment, but just transforms. Comparing 2016 and 2017 thus becomes meaningless.

Wars, destruction, illness, disasters, and malice have existed for as long as humanity has existed. But at every turn we have managed to overcome them. Creation has succeeded destruction. Wars were followed by peace. New “beginnings” followed each “ending.” Therefore, if you resist looking from a narrow perspective, it is more than difficult to define a phenomenon as negative.

This was mentioned in an editorial of New York Times the other day that evaluated2016. It quoted Cicero – considered one of Ancient Rome’s greatest thinkers and politicians - saying in 63 B.C.: “O tempora, o mores!” (Oh what times! Oh what customs!). He was castigating the corruption of his age more 2,000 years ago. Clearly, humanity has been going through the same experience again and again. And yet malice has always been covered by beauty along this time period.

Moreover “good” and “bad” are relative terms, and their definition depends which side you are on. For example World War II was a positive moment for the U.S. while it was a total disaster for Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall was a victory for the West, yet a huge disaster for the Soviet Union. Similarly, today the seizure of Aleppo by the Bashar al-Assad regime is a big defeat for some people, while some others are celebrating it by chanting on the street.

This all reminds me of the song “The Answer is Blowing in the Wind,” written in 1962 by Bob Dylan, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this year:

“How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man? How many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand? How many times must the cannon balls fly, before they’re forever banned? 

“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

“How many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free? How many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see?

“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

“How many times must a man look up, before he can really see the sky? How many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry? How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Who knows where the answers of our own questions are. Yet it is more than certain that a man needs to walk down many roads before you can call him a man. And alas, many cannon balls must fly before they are forever banned.

After everything, I am sure many beauties and blessings lie ahead in 2017 and beyond.