Self Improvement Non-Fiction posted January 4, 2021

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Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

Your Post Pandemic Reveal

by Jay Squires

Jan. 1st, 2021: 7:48 A.M.
Last night was the first time in adult memory when 10 PM, on December 31st,  hadn’t found me at my dining room table waiting at the screen where I’d just dropped a one and a period. All those years, stretched back more than fifty, when my child-bride must have watched her child-husband in wonder as he bent over the coffee table in their four-room cottage, his pen poised to the right of the one and the period on a sheet of his college-ruled notebook paper, and held up his free arm for silence.

This moment, until last night, was the single, most significant two-hour block of time in my calendar year.

Resolution time 
It was during those two hours that I would lay out the narrow, straight paths, three to five of them, sometimes as many as seven; paths that I resolved I would step out on every day over the next 365. During those two hours, hope fairly crackled with expectation. 

This yearly ritual held every bit of the incipient power of the ancient Sumerian Festival of the Planting. Just as they fervently prayed to Ishkur, the god of rain, and Shamash, the god of the sun for the recipe for a bountiful harvest, my incantations sped across the screen during those two hours. It was then I courted a bevy of modern gods: the gods of fame, the gods of fortune, the usual tribe, led by an always tenuous, ill-defined god, the god who ruled them all, the one that I, over time, glimpsed, but never fully embraced—the god of self-acceptance, the god of inner peace.

Dec. 31, 2020: 10 P.M.
How was last night different? I don’t think I can tell you. You’d expect, after well over fifty years of ritual, I’d have dropped into my chair at precisely 10 PM in heady readiness. I didn’t. Instead, I rather drifted through the house. I snapped on the TV at one point. It was on NBC. I watched the last few minutes of Hoda and Jenna, as bubbly as champagne, and the beginning of the Carson Daily New Year’s Eve extravaganza, where he told me that among others Pentatonix would perform. 

They will do Auld Lang Syne, I thought as I continued my wandering.

Please don’t insult me, dear reader, by thinking I am trying to convince you that all thought of my 10 PM ritual simply evaporated at 9:59. 

I’m old. I get it. Capable of such lapses. But no …

I absolutely knew I was missing my appointment. I just didn’t care. Oh, and it was not the god of tranquility and inner-peace who chose that moment to cast a misty veil over me. There were still some things in my life that remained undone, slightly out-of-sync. While I might enjoy a measure of tranquility, a bit of inner peace … I still had some challenges that needed resolution—there was that word again—that required a little self-dissatisfaction to overcome them.

I kept walking. The TV droned softly in the background. I peeled an orange and ate it. I washed down a laxative tablet with 8 ounces of water. And I walked and I waited.

At 11:30, I sat down on the couch alongside my Shi Tzu, Serius, who was curled in a furry comma, and I watched Carson Daily and his co-host speak in a weirdly abusive way about 2020. It would have been comical. Except that everyone was so deadly serious about that god-damned 2020! Yes! 

The year itself had anthropomorphized into a deviate—a serial killer. 

2020 was COVID clad in a black cape! 

COVID—the disease that robbed the world of more than 1.7 million people was renamed “2020” by NBC, with the drop of a gigantic glass ball. I would not have been surprised if, through the magic of TV, that ball had shattered into 1.7 million pieces as it crushed the life out of those four numbers, lined like blindfolded prisoners at its base. 

If the producers had thought of it, I’m sure they would have. Instead, though, a member of a rock band, releasing a demented yowl, mutilated four, three-foot-tall numbers with his electric guitar, which was itself demolished, leaving only the guitar strings whipping about like vipers from the neck which he throttled like it was Medusa’s, herself.

Then, out of hell’s own din, came the dulcet, 5-part harmony of Pentatonix: 

                Should auld acquaintance be forgot
                And never brought to mind?
                Should auld acquaintance be forgot
                And days of auld lang syne?

Yes! And Yes! If we were to let NBC—and I’m sure, CBS and ABC, BBC, Facebook, and Twitter—be the voice of the masses at 12:01 AM, after the smoke had cleared … the world demanded nothing less than casting that filthy, maggot-infested mantle that was 2020 into the black, soul-sucking universal abyss.

The stuff of ritual
But that is, in its most dire of extremities, the stuff of ritual. It is the Sumerians after 10 consecutive years of drought, on the eve of the planting ritual, lifting their gaunt faces and withered arms to their gods.

O, Mighty Ishkur, how can you push away your children? Bring down your sweet rains to freshen our blistered earth; and Almighty Shamash, turn not your face away. Draw the tender shoots ever upward to your warm embrace. Grace us with the bounty of your harvest.

2021: the harvest
Have I forever relinquished my ritual of resolution? Should I even harbor the thought of Self-Dissatisfaction (the precursor of resolution), in this year NBC gifted us … so brimming with hope?

No to the first question, yes to the second. I believe the human brain is hard-wired to project the soul (even to the brink of madness) toward a deeply hopeful, but never fully achieved, nimbus of perfection. The reach that exceeds our grasp! 

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or else what’s a heaven for?—Robt. Browning

Self-dissatisfaction will always be the lodestone for perfection. And so, resolve I shall! But only the timing will change … because I believe (and I’m not alone in believing), that ours is a seasonal brain. For tens of thousands of years, back to the mists of recorded history, Ancient Man’s calendar had only ten months, and it began with the spring equinox (circa March 20 in the northern hemisphere, September 20 in the southern hemisphere).

That is when the earth softens her crust in readiness for receiving seed. The brain responds with its own chemical cocktail: Think of “spring cleaning” for the housewi ... the housespouse. (I’m not entering those waters!)

Springtime: a time of new beginnings. A starting over. Rebirth. For Christians, Easter’s resurrection of Christ; for the Jews, Passover; the Persians with their Nowruz; the feast of Cybele, in Italy; St. Patrick’s Day which yearly commemorates the Saint driving the snakes out of Ireland (supplanting paganism with Christianity).

What better time than the spring equinox to sort out what needs changing, strengthening, or removing in my life, and then ritualizing it into a resolution?

And now, that's me, waving at you from my Bakersfield, California window. Read my lips: May Peace, Health, Love, and both Inner and Outer Wealth visit you in 2021— lo! and decide to take up residence!



Thank you, Melani Sosa, for your photo from Unsplash.

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