“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. …. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”
–– G.K. Chesterton
Regardless of how we feel about our lives during the course of a previous year, the arrival of a new one has the potential to inspire us with hope and a desire for change –– in ourselves and in the world around us. What forms these changes take and how we implement them depend on our willingness to examine our current beliefs and behaviors, and to make things anew. British writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton was onto something when he described the breadth of those changes as including not only the physical body but the soul.
As we age and approach the ends of our lives, too often do we focus on the inevitable deterioration of our bodies, as billions of our cells stop replicating themselves (it’s called senescence), while not acknowledging the fact that billions of other cells still continue to multiply and thrive. Given that we keep on going, that we still have noses, feet, backbones, ears, and eyes, what then should we say about our souls?
Like our cells, our younger concepts of reality can, with time, undergo a senescence of sorts. We may reject old beliefs and ways of acting in the world as we acquire –– and learn from –– greater experience. Whether or not we replace those old perceptions and behaviors with newer ones by using the particular kind of wisdom that comes with age is up to us. Should we choose to do it, we can renew our souls.
By remaining open to personal growth, we can develop a “new nose” for sniffing out fresh truths amid the stench of hackneyed and cynical ideas that surround us. We can exercise “new feet” that take us in previously unexplored directions. We can replace our “backbone,” curved from the frustrating burden of coping with ageism, with a straighter, more supportive one of strength and determination. We can better listen with “new ears” and more keenly observe with “new eyes.”
Personal growth shouldn’t be our only goal in 2018. We can resolve to be more effective catalysts for change all around us as well. As we renew ourselves, we become better able to renew the world around us. After all, our culture is like an organic body that constantly replenishes itself while simultaneously undergoing its own form of cellular senescence. As groups of determined individuals (such as in the “Black Lives Matter” and “#MeToo” movements) organize and act, they cause social tipping points that challenge old perceptions, trends, and injustices –– and bring about change.
Today, the issue of aging is on the verge of a social tipping point, too. More people are becoming sensitized to anti-aging language and agendas and are embracing pro-aging attitudes. Now more than ever, generations are working together to stop the ongoing replication of ageist propaganda and to boost our social immunity to ageism by creating new programs that honor and support people of all ages. Each of us can become more engaged in this movement.
Chesterton was right. It goes without saying that, unless we start afresh about things, we will certainly do nothing effective. The arrival of 2018 gives us yet another opportunity to make over our body politic and renew our collective soul.
Happy “Anew” Year.