Rarely when someone says “Happy New Year” are they wishing for the recipient’s knowledge to grow and their mind to become sharpened. I, certainly, have never had that thought when uttering those words. But recently I received such a wish: “May a burst of insight reach you in 2018.” It came after a response to something I’d wrote, and if I’m honest, it made me pause. It made me wonder, does insight and understanding outweigh all those other things we hope to gain for ourselves and wish upon those we care for? Is insight more valuable than happiness, than wealth, than health, than any other worldly good? Possibly. Probably.
With the New Year comes the generic wish. “Happy New Year!” is the message that takes over social media, dominates text and email inboxes, and is exchanged in dialogue in the meatspace. For the most part, its expression is sincere. Occasionally, it is perfunctory, something that is said not because it is meant, but because it’s supposed to be voiced. But what does it mean? What does a “Happy New Year” entail? Is it simply happiness? Is it pleasure? Is it the absence of pain and suffering? Is it wealth? An abundance of opportunity? An increase in autonomy and agency? Is it good health, a buoyant spirit? Is it all of these things? Or none? I don’t know. But I do know one thing that it doesn’t usually refer to: understanding.