He is happily seated who lives in Places whose Air, Earth, and Water, promote not the Infirmities of his weaker Parts, or is early removed into Regions that correct them. — Sir Thomas Browne
Though the holidays afford us with much joy and cheer, I must confess one minor drawback, and that is the modern party. Now, depending on how one defines a party, I am not necessarily against parties. If, for instance, the party consists of six or seven (eight becomes a crowd) men sitting around a fire smoking pipes and having a true conversation, then I am all for partying. If it consists of multiple family members gathered around a large table eating food, I will gladly partake. But the common notion of the party is altogether repulsive to me. In these torture chambers, no fewer than twenty people show up. they play music at volumes which make it nigh impossible to converse. A man nearly loses his voice five minutes in, for he must scream at whomever he is talking to. And even when that unfortunate man is understood, his tone rarely is. And thus his jokes too regularly fall flat. And the only thing worse than falling flat on your face is having your jokes fall flat. It is a rare talent who can both scream at the top of his lungs and deliver a decent, dead-panned joke. It is next to impossible. And even if such a man does exist, that peculiar talent is largely wasted at these modern shindigs. For the types of individuals who partake in them don’t get the jokes in the first place.
I say, if a man cannot be humorous at a party, where ought he be humorous? Perhaps that is why many a good joke is said in a solemn setting, for people are actually listening. But I intend not to belabor this point. I merely wanted to state that the holidays are in some ways depressing because of these parties. This year I attended two—one a Christmas party and the other in honor of the new year. Now, as far as parties go, the latter was far superior, though it celebrated a worse cause, of which I will rant about in a moment. But I must first explain that a peculiar thing happened at each party. Each one consisted of people in my generation as well as older folk, and at each I unintentionally gravitated and mingled toward the older folk. At a Christmas party, I chatted with a gentleman in his late sixties or early seventies about bird watching and trees. At a New Year’s party, I attempted to describe the differences between Mennonites and the Amish to a middle-aged woman. Now, on my journey home from that New Year’s party—which was far superior, as parties go—I recollected to a friend that I find it far easier to converse with the older generations than my own. But upon further reflection, I do not think it is because my generation misunderstands me, in some egocentric way of looking at the matter. Nay, I do not really think that my generation thinks for two seconds about me. I think the real disconnect is that I do not understand my generation. And one thing I do not understand is why they insist on completely disregarding Poor Richard and staying up for all hours of the evening. They insist on sleeping in as late as possible, almost as if it was morally repulsive to wake up at all.
I Say the celebration of New Year’s is really a celebration of tyranny against those of us who wish to go to bed early. It seems to be that one time of year where night owls lord the bed time over early birds. It is the one night of the year where a man feels guilty about going to bed at a decent hour. He even feels more guilty the closer he gets to midnight, as if by quarter-till he has not served his time enough. But he must “welcome the new year,” as if it was some weary traveler who could not find his room lest we held his hand and led him to it, as if everyone had to lead him there. Yet for most of my generation the celebration is mixed with too much alcohol, and even if the new year were some traveler from a distant land, the drunks would probably only lead him to a bed with a person already in it.
Now, if we are really going to make men feel guilty for going to bed at a decent hour on New Year’s, we ought to be more rational about it. What with all the carousing and what not, everyone is either sloshed or nearly snoring by midnight, and the new year’s greeting is really full of half-hearted enthusiasm and incoherence. If we were to truly “great the new year” with some pep and zeal, I propose we all go to bed at nine, wake up at five till that hallowed hour, and scream, yell, holler, hoot, bang, clang, chime, whistle, moan, crow, bellow, blow, and buzz until five after the hour, at which time he will be fully and enthusiastically welcomed. I would then propose we go right back to sleep, so as not to keep the weary traveler up.
The benefits of getting some early shut-eye have been documented so often that it would be mere redundancy to list them here. I must add something to the list, however. The real issue with New Years’ celebrations is not only that we great him half-heartedly; it is also that the next day—indeed the majority of the day, we walk around like zombies. The drunks celebrate New Years, not be welcoming him but by trying to kill themselves. One might think they don’t actually want to see the new year. Now, as I pen this, it is New Year’s Day, and I woke up four hours past my ideal hour because I waited up for him last night. Of course, the whole time I was waiting up on 2015, I was hanging out with 2014 (whom I did not wait up for last year). The point is this: I lost four hours of my life this morning because I spent it in a (very sober, but sleepy) haze last night. The point is that early risers are often considered odd, and I think I am beginning to understand why. In a modern world that despises life and embraces some materialistic nihilism as the non-meaning of their existence, it is no wonder that early risers are despised. An early bird may not actually get the worm. Many an early bird does not get the worm. But the early bird will always see the worm, or at least be able to hunt the earth for it. It is not just that an early riser does not just get something others don’t. The early riser rises before the day, and sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels life. That is, men stay up late because they are bored with life and know not what to do with it; but men rise before the sun because they cannot wait for life to begin again. They go to bed early because to them it is the necessary step to a vibrant reawakening. They understand a man must die if he is to be born again. They understand that in many ways the beginning of a thing is superior the end. They understand that in order to reach a beginning an end must take place: That sunrises are nice but sunsets are necessary for them to occur. They do not see the world as dreary and drab, full of nonsense and weariness; they see the world as full of meaning, vibrancy, and joy. And if the early birds are to be discriminated against once a year for being joyful, I say we should return the favor. There ought to be a holiday where every man is forced out of bed before the sun rises so he can (for once in his life) great that mighty and glorious star. If all men are going to be forced to disdain life once a year, we ought to celebrate it with every morning we are given. The dawn, truly, is like a dead-panned joke. In our initial weariness, we may not think the birds are telling jokes, but if we listen closely, we may begin to perceive they are not just singing. They are laughing.
Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written at The Ole Midshipman,
January 1, 2015
Transcribed by the Author,
With a heavy heart,
January 7, 2015
Painting: “An Old Man Sleeping by a Fireside Attended by a Maidservant”
By Quiringh van Brekelenkam,
Oil on panel, n.d.