The country that I currently live and work and the country I wish to live in after I am finished with my current job, both have a theme of forgetting the old year in preparation for the next one. Both Iceland and Japan have at least some tradition of forgetting the year about to pass, rather than looking towards the new one – although both Japan and Iceland do also celebrate the coming of the new year in ways similar to that of typical New Year’s Eve celebrations. Unsurprisingly, I find the idea of forgetting the year passing more appealing than the idea of celebrating the year coming. Partly because I spend far too much of my time looking to the future and partly also, because I find that ‘forgetting’ the things that have past equips me better for the things to come.
In a very neutral way, there are a number of things that I look forward to leaving behind with this year soon to pass. One such thing is letting go of my need to stringently observe a particular stylistic approach to writing here. Another is, in both a profound and also literal sense, my family; quite literally leaving them behind in Australia and also choosing to leave them out of the majority of my life. While those two examples sit at very different points on the ‘cline of significance’ they do still share a place and are even, to some extent, connected.
Why ‘Forgetting the Year’ however, rather than ‘Celebrate the Year’ or ‘New Year!’? Rhetorical as that question is, the answer is not simple: to create meaning; to imbue a sense of meaningfulness and profundity into a part of the year and my life that lacks such.
There is something I have learned this year, which will probably stay with me for a long time if not the rest of my life. Honestly, its right up there with a tidbit I have clung to since first year Philosophy – “A good idea or decision requires dissent and disagreement in order to be made” (the idea being that if everyone agrees, then there is not enough varied perspective to make a good decision or idea; the logic being critiques, proofreading and editing).
Sometimes, you need to give something meaning rather than finding something that already has meaning. Not the most profound line, certainly someone (or several some ones) have already said it before. Never the less, it is the driving force behind Forgetting the Year. The thought process that got me to ‘if you can’t find something with meaning, make something that has meaning’ is more or less as follows:
“Christmas is not (really) celebrated in Japan, Japanese New Year is a ‘with the family’ sort of thing (and so is, for the most part, Christmas), living alone and single, Pagan and Heathen but not an adherent (yet) of any group and therefore without holy days (so to speak) to celebrate as a Pagan or as a Heathen. Mix over a dry and lonely winter, serve when tired and hungry after a bad day at work. Result: crushing sadness.”
– A Recipe for Misery
By the end of that thought process, it was painfully clear that there wasn’t any day or thing for me as a person; a Pagan, a Heathen, a teacher, a friend or anything else I could call myself to take shelter in while the rest of the world celebrated in one form or another. Suffice it to say, that feeling really sucks and I don’t recommend it to anyone. However there was a positive side effect of that experience, and you are reading part of it. The idea of making something meaningful, significant or important is a fairly entrenched modern idea that bleeds across into a number of facets of life. However it is not something that is often taken as literally as I am right now; more often than not people take something that is already there and find something within that to be important to them. In this case rather, I am taking a common idea and applying it in a wholly constructed manner. More importantly, I am not letting that fact diminish the meaning that I have chosen to imbue this with (as so often seems to happen).
While this ‘Forget the Year’ is almost entirely self-serving in that it is really only something to help me fill the gap in my winter season previously filled with celebration, I do think that filling that void is something that should be done. In keeping with the spirit in which I maintain Trees in the Train Station, I feel I need to point out that there are a number of things which are stacked against me (as it were): I am a foreigner living in a part of Japan that “not even the Japanese go to”, I am single and living alone, as a Pagan and a Heathen my praxis lacks many things that others have, etc. Never the less I feel that many who come to Paganism and or Heathenry can often end up in a similar position to the one I have found myself in – having a large void where there was once a great many things; somewhat ironic if you think about it.
Forgetting the Year, though morose sounding and bearing heavy implications of bad memories (which, to a degree, is true), is more about me forgiving myself and allowing myself to move past things that would otherwise have held me back. This wont be the same for everyone because not everyone will have the same personality traits that I do, however much the overall idea of Forgetting the Year might be shared amongst people in a similar situation to me; needing something to fill the void.
Forgetting the Year, and with it…