Hello, New Year! Hello, 2018! I don’t know you yet, but the day after this note is published, you will enter our lives. Of course, Judaism does not acknowledge you: it will still be 5778 in that realm. But even the most Orthodox Jews are swept into your grasp. They do business and make appointments with non-Jews, so they have to know when you arrive, 2018. If they ask their Irish Catholic plumber to come on the 15th of Tevet, 5778, they’ll wind up with no plumber and a very backed up toilet. They’ll have to dip a toe into the larger world and suck you in if not embrace you, 2018. They’ll need to know, in some fairly large corner of their minds, that you are here.
As for me, I’m happy to welcome you, but we need to be clear on certain key agreements. Starting this year, I will not age…. and neither will anyone else who shares my distaste for disease, decline, and loss of faculties. A few signs of aging have already crept in for me, but I can handle those. No more. I am calling out to the universe, and to Whatever or Whoever controls it, to let that awe-inspiring force know: aging is not my thing. A few gray hairs — OK, I can figure out how to handle that. Mild loss of visual acuity: I mean… I’m annoyed to hell, but I can deal with it. Real, down and dirty aging… no, thank you.
You may already know how I feel about death, but, just in case, I want to make this as clear as the cleanest, crispest air: I am not saying that I want to die before real aging sets in. Chas v’shalom! God forbid! No evil eye intended! I just closed my eyes and performed a weird little ritual of rubbing my temples and sending out prayers. Yup: I’m superstitious like that. What I’m saying, I guess, is that I want to live forever in a completely healthy, youthful state, all senses, emotions, and mental faculties intact and thriving… though I am extremely open to spiritual expressions of immortality. Immortality might come in some grand and glorious way I haven’t even thought of. If this world is controlled by mystical forces, that’s quite likely. The mystical is often beyond me, much as I try to capture it and pull it close to my body in some clumsy, misguided, but deeply loving embrace.
2018, I should also make clear that my parents need to maintain their health, strength, and ability to enjoy this world. Let them move back a bit on their timeline, actually. I can be greedy when I’m asking for someone else, right? Should we say that my parents and I will be the same age, or would that be too destabilizing? I mean, not the same chronological age, but the same level of aging. Honestly, 2018, why not? Let’s go for it. Yes, it will be weird, but weird beats life as usual with stunning decisiveness when it comes to time and the life cycle.
“The life cycle”: what a wretched phrase. It implies a beginning, a path, and an end. Those synagogues that call large milestones “life cycle events” are inadvertently horrifying. Consider the meaning of “life cycle” for at least 30 seconds, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me.
You know what, 2018? Maybe you want to be the big year of everything. The year that never goes away. The place on our calendars that stretches out into infinity. Situations will change, of course. We can learn, grow, and accomplish radically new things. Children will mature until they reach the stage of peak adulthood. But time won’t run out. 2018, you will be it. You will be The Man, The Woman, The Great Being Who Transcends The Gender Binary, and The Grand Mind And Soul Who Stands Beyond Time.
So, 2018, I might as well be blunt: I have a gripe against you. I realize that’s unfair; we’ve never even met. But I already know something about you: not through gossip, just through being aware and knowing how the world works. 2018, there is too large a difference between you and the year when they say I was born. Subtracting that year from you does not yield a satisfactory result. This is a huge problem, and I blame you at least somewhat, though of course I’m aware that other forces are at work.
You’re too big, 2018. Please know that I am not one of those people who suggests that friends and relatives lose weight. I have never done that once in my life: who am I to have anything to say in that department when I have my own problems there? But we aren’t friends yet; we’ve never even met. And you hold enormous power, much greater than anyone in my usual social circles.
So I’m going to make a compromise. Losing weight is very hard, but maintaining your current weight should be doable for a powerful soul like you. You must stay at 2018. Your current size is bad enough: this must not get any worse. And yes, I know I’m being rude. If anyone said what I’m saying to me, I’d be on a rampage against them. But I don’t hold even a trillionth of your influence. You are a year. A year. You serve as a center of orientation for every human on the planet, even the Jews whose spiritual lives follow a system that doesn’t include you.
2018, I am shocked that you have become this large. I can’t imagine how it has happened. I have not progressed nearly enough to justify what you represent. Try to keep your rapacious growth in check, for the sake of all that is good, holy, and in need of a break from the frightening path of time we have begun.
Enough of that. My usual personality is much less harsh and judgmental than you have seen. I want to welcome you, 2018, into my life, and into all of our lives. True, 2017 was a bit smaller than you, and petite size is good when it comes to years. But it was an unpleasant year for me and for many others, filled with dread, unhappiness, and an absence of true success.
2018, I’ve been hard on you because I sense that your potential is incredible. If I didn’t think you were capable of greatness, I would have left you alone, with no goals, no criticisms, no aspirations. Make us all happy, 2018. You can do it, Pal. I mean… I know that won’t be possible to keep up at every moment. Minor disappointments are bound to surface within your domain, and I can’t blame you for that. Though you’re powerful, you’re far from omnipotent. But let your overall flavor be very, very good. Throughout your tenure (which, if you live up to my exhortations, will last forever), let us know joy, love, a thrilling sense of achievement, a knowledge that we belong someplace that suits our fundamental inclinations, and the sense of peace that can only come from a conviction that all is and will continue to be well, along all the most important dimensions.
2018, go forth and conquer, but do it with kindness and loving intentions. Squelch the badness of your predecessors and usher in something new. We’re here to help if we can. Don’t be silent; let us know what you need. I await you with guarded but generous optimism. Show me and everyone else that you’re coming for a reason we can relish and celebrate from our deepest places of insight, emotion, and aspiration.