Author: Dr. Sushil Sharma

THE new year will arrive with a blast, pomp ceremony, fanfare spectacle, salutation and display at the stroke of midnight.

Welcoming a new year is always exhilarating, adrenaline charged, exciting yet terrifying at the same time, depending on how merry, happy, intoxicated and the company and location you are in when the clock strikes midnight.

The international date line (IDL), which is an imaginary longitude line passing from the North Pole to the South Pole through the Pacific Ocean, crosses Fiji. The IDL is in fact the 180th meridian and divides the world in two hemispheres. Universal time co-ordinate (UTC) or Greenwich mean time (GMT) is a standard time used universally for comparative purpose so that we all can synchronise our watches to one global standard time for comparative purpose, especially when we are moving from one time zone to another.

England and Fiji are directly on the opposite side of the planet Earth. The eastern half of the Earth's hemisphere is divided in 180 parts (called degrees longitude - denoted also as °) traversing eastwards to Fiji, from London. Going westwards from London on the western half of the planet, one has to traverse from zero degrees longitude, to 180 degrees west over Fiji.

The 180th meridian or longitude 180 degrees, which is also the imaginary IDL, passes directly over Fiji dividing a 24-hour day of the planet into two halves — of equal length. When it is midnight in London (0000 GMT, which is also their local standard time (LST) 0000 LST), it is midday in Fiji (still 0000 GMT but 1200 LST and with daylight saving 1300 LST). This means that the local time in Fiji is 12 hours ahead of London time or during day light savings time 13 hours ahead.

The Earth rotates west to east (or the sun rises in the east and sets in the west). Fiji local standard time (LST) is already ahead by 12 hours compared with London LST. When it is 6am LST in Fiji and the sun has risen up, it is still 6pm the previous day in London, and the sun is just setting. Because one day is 24 hours long, one can easily use time to calculate longitude. One hour of time difference corresponds to 15 degrees of longitude (360 degrees/24 hours = 15 degrees/hour).

The 0 degrees longitude passing through Greenwich, near London, is considered as standard (0000 GMT or 0000 UTC) and the time of all other nations are calculated using this as a reference point. The time difference between each longitude (each degree) is four minutes thus each hemisphere of 180 degrees is 12 hours each when moving across it from 0 degrees to 180 degrees. Moving east of the IDL one loses a day traversing and crossing the IDL on this transect; and similarly moving westwards and crossing the IDL, you gain a day.

It is well known that the new day begins here in Fiji, where the nation has a newspaper, The Fiji Times, which was established in 1869, proudly displaying on its masthead as "The first newspaper published in the world today" because the new day globally starts right here at midnight.

The scientific facts that I have provided about our planet Earth, and the location of our nation in it, places Fiji as an enviable, fortunate, lucky, privileged or happy position for our nation to be the first in the world to welcome the arrival of the new year, the first new day of 2018, and even the first new year baby!

When the clock strikes midnight heralding in Monday morning January 1, 2018 and the new year revellers scream out in excitement and the rural village youths throughout the nation, start banging their 200-litre drums with wooden sticks, throwing water at passing vehicles, it will still be only Sunday 31, 2017 10pm in Sydney, 4.30pm in Delhi, 3pm in Dubai, 11am in London and 6am in Washington, DC, US respectively.

Welcoming a new year can be awesome if you are feeling on top of the world. If prosperity, health, wealth, education, commendable relationship, respectable family and friends, employment and an attractive spouse have been your strong points throughout your previous year, then probably you will cheer, rejoice and feel boundless as you welcome 2018.

If this is the case, then God has probably given you what many people only dream of in our daily lives. Not everyone is so lucky. Many would rather forget many of the sad and tumultuous times, periods and incidents which have plagued their lives in the previous year. Life is not easy and people — even own loved ones, friends and family — often are struggling and not always there when help is needed.

People are almost always having issues of one sort or other in their lives. It comes with the territory and is part and parcel of living. The central issue appears to be money — a lack of it — and the conflicts, battles, and balancing issues trying to budget it for a comfortable living. Life-style appears to always come in the way, giving rise to many conflicts and social issues.

This is where "hope" and "new year resolutions" come into play. With "hope" in heart, humans remain resilient, even in times of hardship, crisis and when there appears that all is lost.

One of the wonders of human nature is our ability to hope. Even in the midst of tragedy, we dream and think ahead and persevere. The great biologist Edward O. Wilson calls us "the future-seeking species" and suggests that natural selection has made hopefulness a unique human quality, "a necessary companion of intelligence".

Still more human, perhaps, is our capacity for acting on our hopes. We not only dream, we strive to achieve the dreams we imagine. Behind all human achievement, from the creative acts of artists to the building of communities, from the making and trading of goods to the work of nations, there is aspiration, resolve, and action.

As we welcome another small milestone, the new year, and say goodbye to the previous year, it may not be the time for joy for some; but of severe painful memories of loved ones who may have died, become separated, or literally not there but miles away in another land, or because of some unfortunate accident parted from their loved ones. These are the events on New Year's Eve — once in a year when you sit and reflect on the past years when you were together as partners and loved ones.

Welcoming in the new year may not necessarily mean letting go of the past as the occasion only exacerbates, worsens, aggravates and intensifies the loneliness and the pain and the suffering that you feel and endure with a heavy heart.

For human beings, it is often very hard to forget our past. As a species we slowly try to overcome our adversaries and sadness; and with a heavy heart slowly learn to live with our sorrows, grief, regrets, worries, anguish, pain, and misery.

Milestones like New Year's Eve and New Year's Day merrymaking "pit-stops" in our lives provide a great opportunity for us to stop to take a breather, so as to be able to reassess our bearings in life; to see where we are as part of the bigger picture in our visions, missions, and the "journey" in our lives towards our "destinations".

In striving to reach our "destinations" human beings often forget that life itself is the "journey" and I suggest that it should be cherished much more than many of us give credit to it.

In the haste to reach the "destination" which some feel is the pinnacle of our life; we never savour the moments of joy that the "journey" provides.

Alas, we knew that life was itself was the journey".

Boisterous, exuberant, blissful, ecstatic and happy new year.

Source: The Fiji Times Online

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