Text by – VIRGINIA STAGNI
Flying from Bologna to London, 6 pm.
We build up our days dealing with expectations, regarding ourselves and others. These expectations influence significantly our existence and, as is often the case, the outcome does not fully meet our demands. This is a source of unhappiness. “One could argue that most of the trouble in the world is caused by introspection”, writes Nick Hornby in his Londoner dark novel A Long Way Down. That’s true and highly coherent with this period of the year.
Expectations and demands are two unspoken, not even whispered, keywords of these days: New Year’s and its anguish of “what to do”. In a succession of dialogical exchanges that starts from “what do you do for New Year’s Eve?” and has as an immediate answer “another San Valentine day as a single”, then “too much Easter Eggs chocolate”, “finally sea and sun but it’s too hot”, progressively drifting in September and it’s already Magic Pumpkins on the terraces with the Christmas lights and balls awaiting in the boxes, we are not more enjoying the present. Absorbed and buried in an a-temporal “now”, the only way we had to fight boredom, that exquisite flaw called imagination and that delicious taste of “carpe diem”, are not allowed anymore.
Everything needs a project, a forecast and, above all, a date.
And the New Year’s is another fundamental one. An “harmless annual institution”, wrote Mark Twain in 1863. If also Romans used to wish a better year for the one coming, it’s clear that in all our history it is never happen such a good year to ask for seconds. But, why are we stalling ourselves on all these masturbating cogitations?
We should stop and come back to deal with the present and our short-term trends. Life knows nothing of years.
The resolutions of New Year’s are like the summer friendships: keep in contact and catch us soon: no sounds since the next summer. It’s cyclical, it’s human nature. Bukowski said “I will never understand men,/ but I have lived/ it through.”
Enjoy that night as another casual happy one. And if you are feeling unhappy and you bet that you are so unlucky that even on the New Year’s Conga train you will meet a ticket inspector, remember we are all on the same boat, or better still, on the same train.
I would love to end this thought with my translation of the article published the 1st of January 1916 in Avanti!, Turin edition, by the Italian Marxist theoretician, politician and philosopher Antonio Gramsci.
I think it is one of the best cause of reflection.
And, of course, happy New Year.
Every morning, when I wake again under the pall of the sky, I feel that, for me, it is New Year’s day.
That’s why I hate these New Year’s days that fall like fixed deadlines, which turn life and human spirit into a commercial concern with its immaculate final balance, its balance sheet and its budget for the new management. They make people lose the meaning of the continuity of life and spirit. We end up seriously thinking that between one year and the next one there is an interruption, that a new history is beginning; you make resolutions, and you regret your ir-resolutions, etcetera. This is generally what’s wrong with dates.
They say that chronology is the bone structure of history. We can accept this. But we also need to accept that there are four or five fundamental dates that every good person keeps stuck in his or her brain, which have played dirty tricks on history. They too are New Years’. The New Year’s of Roman history, or of the Middle Ages, or of the modern age.
And they have become so invasive and fossilising that we sometimes surprise ourselves by thinking that life in Italy began in 752, and that 1490 or 1492 are like mountains that humanity crossed, all of a sudden, finding itself in a new world, coming into a new life. So the date becomes an encumbrance, a parapet that stops us from seeing that history continues to unroll along the same fundamental unaltered line, without abrupt interruptions, like when at the cinema the film rips and there is an interval of dazzling, blinding light.
That’s why I hate New Year’s. I want every morning to be a new year’s for me. Every day I want to deal with myself, every day I want to renew myself. No day foreseen for rest. I choose my breaks on my own, when I feel drunk with the intensity of life and I want to plunge into savage animality, to grab from it new force.
No spiritual discount. I would like every hour of my life to be new, though re-embedding itself to the ones gone by. No day of jubilation with its obligated collective rhymes, to share with all the strangers I don’t care about. Just because our grandfathers’ grandfathers, and so on, celebrated, we too should feel the urge to celebrate. All that is nauseating.
It’s time to create our verses. It’s time for our own New Year’s days.
Thanks to Matteo di Maio for the book he gave to me. It was inspirational.