Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I can't even make a resolution on time, much less blog about such events. Here it is two weeks into the new year and I have yet to address this issue. It might be because of being busy. It might be because of being lazy. It might come from being tired. It might come from the thousands of ideas swirling in my head on which to write. So my resolution for the new year is to not be as busy, lazy, tired or non-focused. There... that should keep me going for an hour or so and then it will fall the way of most resolutions.

And come to think of it. I have really wondered where the background for making resolutions at the beginning of the new year came from. Yes, there is a freshness to the new calendar. There are "do-over" attitudes that abound. But to call it a resolution?

The tradition as it turns out has both ancient and modern roots. In ancient times (we're talking 2000 b.c. or so) the Babylonians began a "new year" celebration in what we would call March today (makes sense since that is the new birth of creation in spring time, etc.). They celebrated for 11 days - which would mean that ball in Times Square would fall REALLY slowly. If you read some of the history - you'll see that today's celebration is a far cry from the "party" that went on then.

Rome finally did away with that tradition when they redid the calendar - somewhere around 150 b.c. and when they named the first month - January, it was representative of the god Janus.
The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances. He was always depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back. Thus he could look backward and forward at the same time. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new.

So where did the concept of the resolution come from? Both the ancient and Roman cultures used this date (regardless of what actual day it was) to look back on the time past and ask forgiveness and count blessings. They made a commitment not to repeat their poor behaviors and to do better in the future. For some it was really big stuff like forgiveness of enemies of the state or large financial obligations. Clearly that went by the way-side as we reached more contemporary times.

I wonder how committed those Romans were compared to today. Most stats indicate that just under 50% of the adult population make some sort of resolution (most popular - weight loss, stop smoking, better financial planning). What is interesting is that about half keep them up for a week, that number splits in half by week two, then in half again by week three and then levels off until six months when it drops again. Hard to imagine the Roman Empire forgiving a state enemy on January 1 and then a few weeks later invading their territory. Fickle Romans! :)
I don't know what your resolutions where/are but my encouragement is to make some resolutions that make a difference not only in your life, but the lives of others. What am I doing to serve those around me? In this morning's paper alone - Haiti gets pounded by an earthquake, a teacher is accused of abusing her students, the homeless in our area are freezing to death, and more people spent time in front of American Idol last night than gave time, talents or treasure to serve the widow and orphan.

I DON'T want to be lazy. I DON'T want to be too busy for others. I DON'T want to be preoccupied with myself. Most of us don't, but we fall into patterns in our cadence of life that are incredibly self serving.

So in the end I resolve not to have any resolutions - but to look back on last year, count my blessings and look forward to this year in terms of the joy of serving others. Yeah, yeah, I hope the gym rats and I will once again become acquainted and I might visit the fresh produce aisle more... but that needs to be secondary in my heart and mind. May I be the hands and feet of a heart committed to the Greatest Commandment.

Happy New Year!


1 comment:

Laura Ickes said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you!!!