In an instant, in less than the blink of an eye, a new year has begun. 2019 is gone, long live 2020. Of course, what happened in a flash took 365 days to arrange. Or, rather, it took 940 million kilometres, since a year is really measured how long it takes for the earth to travel around the sun. It just so happens that as it makes its orbit, it also rotates around its own axis, which gives us 365 nights and days from the beginning to the end of its journey.
Well, sort of 365 days and nights. The rate at which the earth rotates isn’t perfectly matched to the time it takes to go around the sun. It actually travels for another 6 hours or so, one-quarter of a day, so every four years we have to take up the slack and add one more day to our calendar.
Of course, we don’t notice this cosmic dance of earth travelling around the sun, spinning all the way. Well, we notice the spin, since it give us the slow progress from light to dark and back, but we don’t really feel the motion of the earth itself, either as it orbits or rotates. So, we have this majestic, massive thing happening around us, one that has happened for millions of years and will continue happening for millions more, and once a year we mark the instant that the second hand of the clock takes us from last year to next year.
We give that instant a whole lot of weight. We see going from one year to the next as the end to what has gone before and as the beginning of what is yet to come. Some folks use the occasion as a way to change something in their lives. They resolve to lose weight, forgive past slights, or to try a new hobby. Some folks use the occasion to look back at the past year and choose the best, worst, funniest or strangest things that happened. In an instant, we condense 365 days into memories and try to figure out what will happen for the next 365.
The instant we mark the new year is only one of many. A life is made up of instants beyond counting. Sometimes we notice them, as with a sudden life changing experience. Sometimes we don’t notice them at all, and it’s only after a period of slow growth that we realize how many instants have passed and how far we’ve travelled. Sometimes instants spread out over time, as friends or family we see only infrequently pop back into our lives momentarily although it seems like no time has passed since we last saw them.
We mark the instant we go from one year to the next with great celebration. Yet that is only one instant in lives that are made up of only a limited number of instants and each and every one of them matters; each one moves us forward, or holds us back, changes us or marks a period where nothing needs to change. As the new year celebration fades from memory and 2020 becomes old news, take an instant now and then to celebrate and give thanks for every God-given instant you have been granted.