On transitions, even arbitrary ones

Over the past several years, society has developed a tradition of bashing many of our celebrated transitions as “arbitrary” and therefore lacking in value. Of all the transitions that take a beating, New Years and its attendant retrospection and resolution takes the worst beating. I blame the rise of literalism, but that is probably a discussion for another time.

What these arbitrariness claims ignore is the deep seated need we humans have for such transitions. Our history shows that such things have nearly always been a part of our culture, and I suspect that presence is a function of need.

From my point of view, we have a need to break the passage of time into smaller pieces and to be reminded that we have a lot more control over our circumstances than we sometimes imagine. We also need to be reminded that time passes and that dwelling on circumstances outside our control serves little purpose.

So, while the passing of our calendar from one year to the next may be arbitrary in some respects, the weight we put on such transitions is not arbitrary at all. We celebrate that passage because we need to, and we would do well to be conscious of why and embrace what comes from it.