A new spirit of balance, symmetry, and incremental construction courses through the veins of the new year.
When everyone else was staring blankly at the sky during the fireworks, counting in unison, I was looking at the crowds of people pretending everyone was in a cult worshipping Kronos, the god of time.
It wasn't that hard to pretend.
New Years: Further Reflections on Straddling a Societal Fault Line
Spent the new year being welcomed to the tundra of Eastern Massachusetts, understanding my parents and extended family more with every step.
There I was in the great yankee stronghold, alone walking the streets of that oldest bastion of the protestant work ethic: BOSTON. I was actually approached by a man in a Ben Franklin costume and presented with a photo opportunity. I screamed.
I quickly found that there, in the heart of microcosmic repression, the individual stands naked confronting the pitiless indifference of snow, brick, and industry.
All societies are challenged to create norms along which individuals interact. As I found over the Summer, the South does so more liberally by allowing a sort of social safety net, a macrocosm in which there are fewer barriers to interpersonal relation, and all people feel the collective pulse of human existence! All constituents of the governing southern principle revel in the dionysiac rhythmic periodicity most supremely exemplified by their unrepressedly percussive music. It turns out there is a reason why the South has a second person plural, and why people in the north ignore you and look away if you accidentally ask how "y'all" are doing. For this reason, I wonder if southern societies will ever fully modernize, as it is precisely the suppression of this animal will-to-life that material success requires.
With all this said, I was shocked to see how slyly Northern residents adapted to an environment of merciless social isolation! I stayed with people around my age, 21 and 22, and Matt and Steph were engaged. Ian and Sarah were engaged. People were hounding Jeremy about when he was going to ask Grendel to marry him. Warren's relationship with Margaret, while a casual affair in Virginia, was elevated to a subject of intense scrutiny in Massachusetts. Over the course of the weekend, three different people called to announce engagements. Girls said they wished they knew I were coming, because they would have brought one of their friends. Is it that simple up there?! It seemed somehow befitting of a culture that exalts individual consciousness and drive to fulfill interpersonal needs in a retreat to the microcosm of the domestic household.
Where do I fit in? Clearly, the appeal of this arrangement lays in its ability to conform social relations more directly to the personal characteristics of more radically individually-minded people. I can understand that appeal!
Still, I have always hated the aspects of new england that I saw as blatantly anti-social. Up north, good manners means knowing how to handle yourself properly. I always thought good manners was more about knowing how to handle other people properly. Location is everything; where do I want to go after next year? Growing up in a place that transforms from North to South based on the season, but never fully captures the spirit of either, makes everyone so damn schizophrenic. I gotta get organized.