January 1st is a day like any other, the sun rises and sets, but we make it into something more. We make it into a day to pause and reflect and plan ahead and resolve to be better humans. We greet it as a freshly washed sheet, a brand new haircut, a blank page to color as we choose. We give it a name.
New Year’s Day.
As we turn over a new leaf, outside the window, the Fig tree releases its last. There is nothing, yet, to replace it. No tight bud springing forth. Just bare branches, perches for the crows, highways for the squirrels.
The animals know. They’ve prepared for the long dark days, hiding their acorns, keeping watch for dead things to peck at. It’s instinct and hunger that drives them. If you and I were hungry, we’d pad to the refrigerator in our socks, and gaze at the selection within: the cold cuts and wilted celery and milk, the leftover chicken and cold beer, the rice and beans. Our way of filling our stomachs is to sit behind a desk typing into a computer for eight hours, then stopping at Safeway to forage.
Animals live by instinct. They do what’s necessary. They don’t have leisure time in the wild. They don’t punch a clock. They hunt, they mate, they sleep, they attack, they sing their songs.
New Year’s Day isn’t for the birds. It’s for humans, who can’t afford to live by instinct. We plan our days to the last minute.
But even for humans, instinct kicks in. The resolutions fall away like the last leaf on the Fig tree. No longer do we drag ourselves awake at five a.m. to run on the treadmill. No longer do we put in thirty minutes at the keyboard. No longer do we divide our food into smaller portions, what’s healthy and what’s not. Instinct tells us to sleep when we’re tired, eat what we desire, mate with the blank page when the sap rises.
But we can’t even allow ourselves to do that.
Humankind lost the rhythm of animals when we hacked away nature to build skyscrapers, divided the days into minutes, and formed the capacity to dream. Our goals drive us now. Instinct is a cousin we rarely visit, who complains loudly.
There’s a balance to this tightrope of life. Work and play. Sleep and activity. Eating and digesting. Bonding and being alone. In these ways, we are no different than animals.
People elevate living to an art when we allow creativity to propel us. As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, (and I’ve expanded upon): Every empty page, every blank canvas, every new day holds the universe within.
It’s up to us to form it, shape it, bring it into focus, so all can see. But to do so, we need to let go.
What clock will you follow this day, and the next, and the next? Will it be the one that humans invented, that doesn’t exist outside our heads? Or the rhythm of your infinite soul? Will you fill your moments with what your brain insists you do, or what your heart longs to experience? Can you sit here, now, and let your creative self worm its way upward, a bud to the sun, blossoming into something the bees can drink from?
On this day of resolving, try to allow for pockets where time doesn’t exist—not planning these pockets—just pausing periodically to listen, to feel, to catch that spill of sunlight, to let instinct and inspiration be your guides.
Keep on creating. We need your truths, more than ever in the coming year.
-Alisa Clancy, Host of KCSM’s Morning Cup of Jazz