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A New and Different Year

In many cultures, New Year is a time when people reflect on past failings and resolve to change themselves for the better. The Jewish tradition is no exception. New Year (rosh hashanah) marks the beginning of a ten-day period of penitence that culminates in the Day of Atonement (yom kippur). Indeed, in Hebrew, the word for “year” (shanah) is connected etymologically to the word for “change” (shinui); both derive from the root שנ"י.

Change isn’t easy. It requires us to face uncomfortable realities. In the words of David Bowie, to change we have to “turn and face the strange.” The strange might be a new path, a new perspective, people different to us, or some aspect of ourselves that we previously ignored. Unless we turn to face them, however, opportunities to change can easily pass us by. Bowie was a master of self-reinvention. The three clips below, each one from a different decade, represent just a small selection of his many styles and personas. Yet even he acknowledged that change is scary. To my ears, at least, fear of the strange is precisely what his stuttering delivery of the word “Changes” in each chorus conveys. In the coming year, may we have the humility to recognize our need to change and the courage to face the strange. Wishing us all a good, and different, year.

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