Discontinuities in Life

Strange things occur when things are suddenly switched on or off. It happens in signal processing all the time. The sudden application or removal of a signal sends shockwaves of infinite frequency through the system. Similarly, abrupt behavioral transitions during winter months can generate reverberations in our lives.

Beginning in October, Halloween slowly creeps in. Pumpkins sprout, eventually transforming into jack-o-lanterns. Costume stores materialize where there was once an empty and forgotten space. And then the magical evening arrives and streets fill with children-sized ghosts, princesses, and pirates (theoretically at least, my apartment complex was quiet this year). But the very next day, the black and orange is hastily replaced by red and green, heralding the start of Christmas. It’s a strange discontinuity that was said to spawn The Nightmare Before Christmas, a twisted tale where the inhabitants of Halloween make Christmas their own.

But as abruptly as the voltage is applied, come January, the battery is cut off and with it, the holiday energy: ornaments are packed away, trees taken to the curb. Hand in hand with the New Year is supposed to be a fresh start filled with promises of self-change. It’s another discontinuity in our lives; suddenly we’re expected to exercise more, eat better, etc. But look around, look outside. Are the days really that different? Was December 31st 2010 all that different from January 1st 2011?

To protect a system from potentially damaging signals, a filter is applied, smoothing out transitions, taming unwanted frequencies. Maybe life is just another system that could use a filter to smooth out these abrupt holiday transitions.

To that end, I’m still listening to my Christmas music, albeit less frequently. Besides, good albums like the Glee Christmas Album deserve more than just two months of play. I’ve also made New Years Resolutions, but I don’t plan to jump right in to them. Like lowering oneself into a hot bath, I plan to ease myself in.

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