Custom is stubborn, isn't it? I remember my mother, when I was a boy, being utterly scandalised to discover that my aunt sometimes served up fish and chips for Sunday lunch. “I mean, its just not done!” Those of a certain age will remember that Sunday lunch wasn't Sunday lunch if it wasn't a roast and two veg. I do wonder what she would make of people having Sunday lunch out, and choosing to have curry, sushi, or pasta.
We painted our bedroom ceiling green and when a friend saw it she was stunned, blurting out, “But ceilings are white!” She didn't know where to look, poor thing. Actually, it is a very delicate green, picking out some of the ivy my wife lovingly stencilled on the walls, very arboreal, very calming after a stressful day. Maybe we're odd. I do hope so.
How much of what we do simply because that's what everybody does is called, custom, culture, tradition, or some such thing. I wonder what we would do if we didn't have these ruts to follow, that mule track to meander along.
We can deceive ourselves in thinking someone – the mysterious “they” - is in charge and it “wouldn't be allowed” if it was wrong. My mother, again, once remarked, “I like it when 'they' have Christmas on a weekend.” It hadn't occurred to her that it was simply a function of the calendar, that there was a certain inevitability in the scheme and, if she just hung on, a Saturday/Sunday Christmas would come around again. The next one is in eight year's, if your interested, while the next Sunday/Monday Christmas is in three years (you must take leap years into account - 'they' said)
So we follow custom, do what we always did, what others always do, what 'they' have always done, finding comfort and assurance in the familiar, in the crowd.
But what if we didn't follow the crowd, hide behind custom and orthodoxy, allow 'them' to decide for us? What if we had a vegetarian Christmas dinner, went to bed early on New Years Eve, bought someone else a gift on our birthday, wandered purposefully off the mule track, jumped out of the rut made for us by others, stopped waiting for something to happen to make it all mean something and simply made something happen?
Its New Year's Eve as I write this but only according to the calendar, and only according to one calendar. All that will happen tonight is 31 becomes 1, Tuesday becomes Wednesday, December becomes January, and its all been decided for us.
It is a time when people make resolutions, because that's what 'they' do, and they will sooner or later go out and break those resolutions. People will make promises to themselves they will more than likely not keep. The hope of a new start will slowly but inevitably trickle away and the impact of this on the rest of the year can be, for many, so discouraging.
What if we did it differently? What if we accepted that some traditions are good and helpful but, when it comes to time, the past is a bucket of ashes, tomorrow is no more than a promise, and we only have today? How would we live today if we realised it is all we have in this life? What would we do differently today? What if we took all those promises, prioritised them, got rid of the empty ones we are just bound to break and put our energies, not into regretting yesterday, nor into worrying about tomorrow, but living today in light of “the most important things in my life?”