Two days from now, we throw away our 2012 calendars and start using new ones.
With the New Year comes the removal of Christmas decorations. The last of them - usually the outside lights - will be dismantled by the end of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas.
When I was growing up, my parents religiously stuck to the old customs - nothing came down until Jan. 6. Except the needles of the Christmas tree, which didn't bother waiting for the official period to end before falling onto the floor.
The world always seems a little greyer as wreaths and ribbons go into storage for
another year, as the festive lights no longer gleam in the darkness.
The newspaper tells me that many people suffer post-Christmas depression. The joie de vivre, the social get-togethers, the glow of candlelight, have faded away. And have left â€¦ what?
Half a century ago, the relatively
unknown - at least in North America - Irish poet W. R. Rodgers penned a bleak tirade against the artificiality of commercial Christmases. Families gathered, he scoffed, "in old stone circles" to share "the tinned milk of human kindness."
But after Christmas, he went on hopefully, we will see
"â€¦ this silent and dissembling world
"Of stilted sentiment suddenly melt
"Into the mush and watery welter ofâ€¦
â€¦ feet and actual fact. Over the stark plain
"The silted mill-chimneys once again spread
"Their sackcloth and ashes, a flowing mane
Repentance isn't a word we hear often nowadays. We associate it with that radical John the Baptist wading in the Jordan River, exhorting his people to change their ways.
But how about our ways?
I no longer share Rodgers' cynical view of Christmas. But once it's over - with little to look forward to but our credit card statements - what will we fill our blank pages with? The same old same old as last year?
We try not to do that. So we make New Year's resolutions. Even if we soon break them, they're a symbol of hope, a desire to make our worlds a little better.
May I suggest a resolution for you? Give up apathy.
In more than 50 years of working within churches and community organizations, I've become convinced that the most bitter conflicts don't come from a few radicals pushing new visions, or from conservatives clinging to old ones.
They're caused by the vast complacent middle, who wish the whole thing would just go away and leave them alone.
But it won't. Climate change and technological developments, abortion and
euthanasia, gun control and health care - none of these will resolve themselves if we just keep our heads down long enough.
When the middle cocoons itself in a security blanket, the extremes escalate.
I challenged a pro-gun correspondent recently to define his goals for a more livable world. To his surprise, I agreed with some of them. He would ban many things. Politicians from voting on anything from which they might profit, directly or indirectly. Genetically modified foods. Massive corporations. Drugging children to treat mental and emotional disorders. Government deficits, currency manipulation by big banks.
"So who's going to do it?" I asked.
I would want to have universal health care, universal education, universal human rights.
But again, who's going to do it?
An evangelical acquaintance assured me that all disparities and injustices would end when Jesus returned to take control over a sinful earth.
"How?" I asked. "By taking away human ability to make decisions?"
It should be obvious - if anyone's going to do anything about the world's disparities and injustices, it has to be us. Expecting anyone else to do it for us is like expecting Mommy to kiss it better.
The blank pages of the 2013 calendar invite us to make a difference. To refuse to sit in silence while demagogues claim to argue on our behalf. To do what we can, in our own context, to overcome poverty, homelessness, hunger, powerlessness, exploitation, prejudice, bigotryâ€¦.
In the great game of life, there are no
spectators. We are all involved.
So for 2013, let us set aside apathy. Let us speak up, and speak out, on issues that affect us. Not by hurling accusations or insults, but by making our views clear. To ourselves, as well as others. We cannot
effectively debate issues we haven't made an effort to understand.
The pages of the new calendar are not blank, after all. They're filled with invisible invitations. To make this a better world. For us, and for all living creatures.
Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist. He can be reached at