Our Views: The new day, and old year

So the Mayans had their shot at a really big calendar moment last year, but our collective presence is proof they blew it — and so we remain to face the beginning of a new year.

End of the world, you are not nigh.

Whether one’s calendar is Mayan, Julian or Gregorian — the latter is the Renaissance-born basis of today’s Western calendar — the opening day of a new year is one that mankind has tended to take as significant, although in varying degrees over many centuries. All the new year’s traditions, or superstitions, come into play on Jan.1, not to mention the hangovers induced by those who celebrate too much on New Year’s Eve.

The root of January is the name of the Roman god Janus, looking backward and forward at once.

It is that quality of this day that inspires reflection on the year behind. In 2012, despite the Mayan predictions of the apocalypse, the world continued to turn in its accustomed fashion despite all that mankind can do to change things.

Those changes have been for good or ill, whether in the melting of the Arctic floes at a global level, or in the uncounted acts of volunteerism and even heroism at a personal level in the response to two hurricanes, in Louisiana and in, of all places, New York City.

If we cannot predict the future — the Mayans and a hurricane hitting New York City showed that — we can learn from the lessons of history, particularly recent history. Disaster and misfortune may befall us. Anyone who lives in the Gulf South with its history knows that. But what do we do about it? Watchful waiting is no longer a practical policy, and if there is something that Louisiana can teach to those reflecting on 2012, it is that quality of endurance and perseverance against disaster.