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MARTHA SEZ: We resolve to open our eyes, to see the truth, to act upon what we know to be right ...

January 10, 2020
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

January. The beginning of the New Year. This is the time when we stop to look to the past and then to the future, to assess the direction of the flow of our lives and then take steps to alter its course.

Good luck!

The changes we resolve to make in the New Year are not easily brought about. If bad habits were easy to change, our resolutions would have been successful years ago. You might as well try to reroute the AuSable River as it rushes down from the mountains. Still, every year I always try.

Janus, the ancient Roman deity of time and change, is the perfect patron of the New Year's resolution. He presides over beginnings, passages and endings. I've read that Janus "lives at the limits of earth, at the extremities of heaven," and, while I can't exactly put my finger on what that means, I really like the sound of it.

Janus is depicted on ancient Roman coins and statues as having two faces, one looking backward and the other looking forward. He sees the future as well as the past.

Janus is the deity of the first season, the first day of the month, the first month of the year. January is named for Janus.

Or else it isn't. Some scholars of ancient history say January is named for Juno, but since I consider this version to be inconvenient in the context of this column I am going to ignore it.

It is hard for me to believe that the millennium, the year 2000, was 20 years ago. It was such a big deal. People were prophesying the end of the earth according to the ancient Mayan calendar, which they claimed to comprehend, on what basis I don't know, along with major death and destruction as well as just plain aggravation due to the worldwide malfunction of computers predicted to take place at midnight on January first.

When this did not happen-the computers took the millennium pretty much in stride, and perhaps the Mayans were mistaken-soothsayers decided that the true millennium was to take place on the stroke of 2001. Whatever.

The Millennial generation includes those born between the years 1981 and 1996, although for the life of me I don't understand why. Wouldn't you think that people born in the year 2000 would be Millennials? They are not, though. Don't ask me. Bring it up with Pew Research.

Looking back over the year 2019 in Martha Sez, we discussed some strange creatures, including tardigrades.

"Thanks to a science project at the Keene Central School Science Slam last week, I am now all about tardigrades, a phylum of translucent segmented invertebrates about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Also known as Water bears and moss piglets, tardigrades have survived five mass extinctions and are still going strong. ... Scientists, being what they are, have completely overlooked the perceived cuteness of tardigrades, preferring to perform experiments on them to ascertain their limits. They have boiled tardigrade tuns in water and in alcohol, subjected them to radiation and intense pressure, and even blasted them into space. Every time, when reimmersed in water, some of them bounce back and begin swimming around again."

Who can forget about hagfish, featured here back in 2017?

"The reason the hagfish has survived for millions of years, and also the reason it is so disgusting, is that it produces huge amounts of slime from 100 glands that run along its sides. Any time a hagfish is feeling stressed, or when it wants to keep some sea carrion away from other scavengers, it releases mucus from these glands which combines with water to make about five gallons of slime within minutes."

On the national and global scene, so much has happened during the last few years that even Janus might have trouble making sense of it. Then again, Janus has seen a lot.

What does he see for the coming year? War? Peace? Help for the environment? If we don't make changes, I'm afraid nothing will be left but the tardigrades.

True, change is not easily brought about. We resolve to open our eyes, to see the truth, to act upon what we know to be right, again and again, and sometimes we don't succeed and we have to start again.

This year I won't be cynical about change, about beginnings and endings. There is so much to get done.

Have a good new year.



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