When I sat down to start typing out this post, the first mental mistake I made is probably the same one everyone around the planet is making at this very moment: the four small numbers at the top of this post no longer ends in a 4, but a 5. And in some ways, that’s really it. A different symbol that ends our peculiar way of denoting time. Everything else in our world still ticks along as if nothing happened when the ball dropped in Times Square last night. But around the world, this small uptick in our calendar means quite a bit. It speaks to the last 365 days, and along with it the new 365 of them to come. It’s a opportunity both for reflection and hope, and even though contemplating about the moments past and the moments to come distracts us from the one in front of our eyes, sometimes, it’s worth stepping outside of the seconds that tick by to take a look back.
The ball drop is sort of like a page turn. It’s not starting anything completely new and it’s not the end of anything big, but it is a shift, and we all want to remember what happened in the last few pages. I have no doubt the Internet is positively exploding with all sorts of stories and articles reviewing 2014, but I want to highlight a few bullet points that I loved. Let’s start off with the Internet. It may seem like we’re overlooking a large part of the world’s events when we confine ourselves to the walls of the Internet, but think again. If Facebook were a nation, it would be the second most populous, just 7 million people under China. Almost three billion – more than a third of the world – are now connected, and it’s an integral part of our daily lives as much as the “real life” is. The single most important notion that I keep coming back to every year is the power of online communities and activism. Real-life communities are easy to limit and control; online ones? Not as much. From searching for the missing MH17 flight through crowdsourcing to raising well over $50 million for charity with the Ice Bucket Challenge to bringing attention to the problems of police racial profiling after the shooting of Michael Brown, the online community shaped the world in 2014 as much as any offline ones, if not more. And speaking of activism and human rights, one of the areas in which the world, and the United States specifically, made large advancements this year is in the equality of the LGBT community. As of today, over half of the 50 states have marriage equality laws, and 2014 brought us celebrations thereof when Silicon Valley companies painted the streets with rainbow colors in a parade, and then again when Conchita Wurst claimed the winning trophy in Copenhagen’s Eurovision song contest. From the devastating Ebola epidemic and the Syrian humanitarian crisis to the human rights and World Cup victories, every New Year’s Day brings with it a fair amount of sorrow and an equally great amount of hope. Was 2014 a good year? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t think we should try to put a verdict on it at all. The good we can continue into the future, and the not-so-good, we can hopefully reverse in the coming year.
With all of these memories behind us, there’s also quite a bit to look forward to 2015. I won’t go too much into making predictions, except to say that I agree with the majority on a generally optimistic outlook for the coming year. But there’s still one question outstanding:
One billion people watched the Times Square ball drop on New Year’s Day as over a million people gathered to experience it in NYC.
As with every New Year’s Day, we take a look back, we look forward, and we celebrate. But why? What’s so alluring about a new year? I think we have two big reasons. First, everyone needs a time to look back – a time for reflection and a time to start fresh without the outstanding burdens of the past. And what better time than a day when the calendar starts anew? Of course, there’s the fun factor in looking back into 2014 and planning for 2015, but when we see the advancements made in 2014 like the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Peace and the stark wake-up call that racism is all but a story of the past, it’s so that we can improve continually, to make each year just a bit better than the previous, and I think 2014 presented us with quite a bit on that agenda. But more importantly, the New Year’s Day is one of those celebrations that’s completely universal, applying to everyone* equally. Everyone celebrates it in slightly different ways, but the spirit of starting fresh and aiming for a better 2015 is, without exception, one everyone’s list. Maybe that’s the most important power of the metaphorical page turn on every first of January. The world, together, can work to keep the promise and vision for a better year – sort of a world-wide, humanity’s New Year’s Resolutions list. And from what I’ve seen, I think we have a pretty good one this year.
* If you don’t want to celebrate New Year’s with at least some kind of an event, you need to get out more.
If you enjoyed this piece, you might also enjoy my next post, The monologue.
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