January: A Post-Christmas Carol
Illustration by Ram Eway
The Gregorian year 2015 is about to end. Whether we like it or not, we have to welcome the fourth leap year of this millennium. A whole new year, another set of months plus an additional day that we need to live by; yet we make so much fuss about how short it was only when the year is about to end — only in December. What about the beginning? What about January?
January, in Latin Ianurius, is named after the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. His name roots from the Latin word ianua which means “door”, and he is mostly depicted as a god that projects two faces symbolizing beginnings and endings. In historic Roman mythology and worship, Janus is called upon before further communication with other gods like Apollo and Jupiter, as a protocol where he serves as a guardian to the gods as a god himself. He has a temple in the ancient Roman wars serving as a gateway and aid for Roman warriors.
The month January also has western designations such as “Wulf-monath” and “Wintarmanoth”, which mean “Wolf Month” and “Cold Month” respectively. Because the previous Roman calendar only had 10 months, people did not have a month dedicated to winter or the coldest time of the year. Around 713 B.C., King Numa Pompilius added and assigned January and February as the starting months of the year, which up until now is adopted and observed.
Since beginnings, transitions and endings are dependent on humankind’s convention of time Janus is also considered a god of time. Though he does not have any actual control on how fast moments go by or when and what events are going to happen, he signifies initiations and finalities of such events. These events are heavily steered by human temporal interval, an individual person’s own unique perception and pace of time. Feelings and human emotional attachment are triggered by distinct factors that usually set an individual’s perception of time too slow when we are uncomfortable or too fast in the midst of joy.
Why the fuss, or perhaps, what the fuss?
Most, if not everyone, of us indulge ourselves to the drowning idea of self-pity, reminding ourselves of our own lapses this time of the year. We have this mentality where we make it all about ourselves. We think that the world’s problems are not worse than ours, instead of tackling the situation maturely. We come up with “resolutions” and “changes” we want to achieve, but we still laugh at them later on because we have not scratched any of these goals from our lists. It is a cycle, and we are not even aware that we are in it for too long that we lose our sense of humanity toward the more important things in life. We are in a trance — focusing too much on materialistic goals and temporary comfort instead of the affection from people who want the exactly same thing from everyone else. Ahead that pretentious path is a life of regrets after losing ourselves in a traitorous process.
The world has more to offer and more essential things to be happy about: a stranger’s guts to return a wallet, a close friend coming out as a gay person, an increase in one’s salary, a friend who just succeeded from relapsing and many other little miracles to be thankful for. On the other hand, the world has enough problems to deal with rather than our petty ones: the Syrian refugees’ unimaginable status, climate change, the bloody rampage of ISIS, the Lumad killings; even the unnecessary mudslinging among politicians way before campaign period is more disappointing than ever. If we think differently, if we think our lives are miserable enough, then our problems are as pathetic as we are. The world already existed way longer than we did, so definitely it will continue to exist with or without us. As true as it gets, we cannot deny the fact that we are only humans.
There is nothing wrong about aspiring much for ourselves and giving our all. It is the lasting feeling of contentment and happiness that compensates for all the suffering we have been through. This is enough to make it all worth it: the momentary pause and the perpetual wish for this second to never end. This is just being human.
There is also nothing wrong about making mistakes, and there is definitely nothing wrong with failing. It is the unexplainable pain and incomparable anguish that every one of us selfishly tries to conceal through smiles, praying that everything we are going through ends. It is the never ending sensation of being worried about not meeting expectations and unsettling anxiety that comes with it. This, too, is just being human.
Pain reminds us we are alive, and happiness gives us reason to be alive. Feeling every feeling there is in this disturbing yet fulfilling world we live in is being human. This is what makes up our humanity. Perhaps, just perhaps, it is our humanity that makes us beautiful.
Thus, loving great endings and hating humble beginnings is totally normal. Wishing lasting good times and praying for shorter dilemmas is also human enough of us. So no one can blame us for working so hard, leaving out so little time for ourselves to buy what we want, and certainly, no one can blame us over being apathetic toward critical issues. However, perhaps there are better things to be busy about, like the valuable time with our families, and appropriate matters to be indifferent about, like people’s expectations and opinion toward us. The world would then be so beautiful.
Initiations and commencements, openings and closings, and starts and finishes are beautiful things we ought to look forward to, but we should not forget to live in the moment and feel it. That is what beginnings and endings are for — what January is for. Perhaps, all the fuss is worth it as long as we are fretting about the right things — the important things that make us human, human enough to face a new year, a new beginning and a new ending.