(New) Year and Time Perception

(Yeni) Yıl ve Zaman Algısı

The following three lines of the poem titled “Since I’ve Been Locked Up”, a significant part of the precious complete works of the great poet Nazım Hikmet Ran, present an effective description of time, years, and the perception created by them.

“Since I’ve been locked up, the earth has revolved around the sun for ten times,
If you ask it: ‘It’s nothing to be mentioned, a microscopic time…’
If you ask me: ‘It’s ten years of my lifetime…’”
(You can watch, through the link below, an excellent sound record created jointly by Genco Erkal and Fazıl Say: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqPOfh-dbFI )

As we can clearly see in these lines, sometimes “year” does not have the same meaning for everyone. While one year is a minor thing, an insignificant detail for some, it may be the most important period of time of some people’s lifetimes. As one interesting and fine saying suggests, the pace the time “flies by” at may differ based on the location one is present at. We sometimes use the idiom “time does not fly by”, depending on our mood in any period of time. As an opposite, we say “time really flies by” in order to emphasize the swift change the time has. An unlimited number of time-related sayings in Turkish clearly show the unique position and significance that this concept has in the public sphere.

But where does the meaning of “year”, a specific period of “time” having an enormous scope, come from? Is this geographical event, which is called a “year” in order to manage the world in a better and more systematic manner through a general agreement, really a very significant one? Does it have a certain aspect to be enthusiastically celebrated every year within the context of time/year, a phenomenon that we have no impact on at all regarding its lapse? Let’s shortly answer that question at the very beginning: Both yes and no!

Before detailing this topic, it is useful to create a general framework with regards to “human” in terms of that being the main theme of what is intended to be said. First and foremost, humans are not creatures formed solely upon the combination of various chemicals. We cannot and should not categorically deny these aspects of humans. If we did, we would overlook a fundamental point standing right at the heart in terms of many scientific fields. These are important points that are not to be ignored; nevertheless, one must remember that humans are both these data and are even more than them.

For instance, it shouldn’t be so easy to explain, through the use of these figures, why a person, whose entire “values” are within the ordinary measures/standards, mentally feel bad, should it? If human is considered only a table or a set of data, if it is considered through an inhumane, strict positivist approach, then we cannot understand the meaning and significance of concepts, such as honor, dignity, humanity, for humans. Therefore, at the end, we would make a fool of ourselves like that famous-celebrity academician who said “It’s okay for people to eat their excrement and urine.”. It may not be biologically harmful, yet its symbolic meaning power is extremely harmful for a person’s dignity. If we overlooked this issue, we would miss Humanity while talking about humans.

When considered with this short background, just like humans not solely consisting of various chemicals or data, “new year” is not a phenomenon to be considered solely a geographical event. Of course, it’s a geographical phenomenon, yet a human is a living being that is able to give new functions to their surroundings and what’s going on around them by recreating those in their minds.
The future tense, which is called a new year, is considered a symbol of the situations, new hopes, new excitements and new expectations, which have not been but are desired to be experienced. This is where its individual and communal meaning lies, beyond being a geographical event that goes on in a perpetual loop.
The endeavors to look for a need for what’s “new” and for something to hold on to without giving up despite disappointments, defeats, grief, losses, intimidation are shaped by the concept of year, which is the biggest new thing, and become a symbol in which all of those come together. Therefore, while there is not a single negative aspect of a person having fresh hopes on a “new” thing, it is also a significant factor in that it has a fundamental mission to strengthen a person’s hopes on life.

It is required to see and understand these humanistic points. If we consider “year” only a mechanical event between the earth and sun as two planets, then there is naturally nothing to talk enthusiastically, ambitiously or hopefully about it; it’s just a big event beyond our control. Nevertheless, if we attempt to make the phenomenon “year” a symbol of a starting moment of a new life of the type we talked about, then there are lots of beauties to be celebrated in it. Hopes and being in the pursuit of new things are a significant point that reminds humans of their humanity. Being able to hope is what differs humans from other living beings. Whenever a human abandons the search for new things, only then they start to get lost within the dark labyrinths of a monotonous world. There is no harm in searching for a “new” and seeing fragments of hope in it; on the contrary, what’s harmful lies beneath the opposite of this.

Finally, Nazım Hikmet finished the poem above as follows: “And so, for example, me being locked up for ten years, just a small talk.”

This shows that time/each and every year is precious, and is nothing to be missed. I wish a new year that is full of hopes and expectations, where we look for and seek to find the better…