An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of December 27 2009
Issued from hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

THINKING ABOUT THE NEW YEAR

Last Monday was the Winter Solstice, the day when for Earth's Northern Hemisphere the days start growing longer after half a year of getting shorter. For the Northern Hemisphere it was the "real" New Year, the day when the whole annual cycle begins all over.

Down here days also have been noticeably shorter during recent weeks, though not as conspicuously so as farther north. Here the "real" New Year, if we need to define one, begins at the end of the dry season when suddenly rains turn the world green again, many plants do their blossoming, there's a surge in insect numbers, and much more. That occurs around May. On the Equator where day lengths stay the same all year and in places where it rains year round, it'd be hard to define when a "real" New Year begins.

The urge to recognize a precise moment as the beginning of a new year is a function of the human brain's right hemisphere, which always is creating "stories" to make sense of facts gathered by the left hemisphere. Nature does very well without paying attention to formal beginnings and ends, without fitting Herself neatly into the cycles and trends our brain's right hemisphere identifies or imagines it identifies.

Yet, we humans are programmed so that there's something depressing about thinking of ourselves as actors on a stage where the play has no beginning or end, no plot-advancing acts following one another, and in fact no real plot or theme at all. We humans need to feel that we're part of an ongoing effort, that we're contributing to a world passing from Point A to Point B, and that Point B somehow will be better than Point A.

So, if we can't really identify with others celebrating this or that "new beginning," or progress accomplished toward a goal, are we doomed to see ourselves as actors in an interminable play with no plot or theme? This week I've thought about that, and here's what I decided:

Even when viewed on a purely rational basis and without our brains' right hemispheres generating stories causing what we behold to seem more exciting, events here on Earth suggest that the Universe's evolution does indeed have direction, and that Point B may turn out to be better than Point A was.

The facts -- not scenes in an imagined story -- I'm referring to are those I've described elsewhere as constituting The Six Miracles of Nature:

  1. That something came out of nothing
  2. That that something immediately began evolving (diffuse matter clumped into galaxies, for instance)
  3. That life arose about as soon as it could
  4. That life immediately began evolving from simple to ever more complex and ever more sensitive forms
  5. That certain living things became capable of thought
  6. That certain thinking beings became capable of inspired behavior not dictated by genetic programming

In this first week of "the real" New Year here in Earth's Northern Hemisphere, these thoughts suggest a New Year's resolution: To harmonize my own life with "the flow of the Universe." Finding direction and ever greater majesty in the Six Miracles as they took place one after the other, I think that my harmonizing can be accomplished by rededicating myself to the daily struggle for ever greater understanding and sensitivity as I look around, think about and feel for the Creation around me, and simply LIVE.