We live with artificial boundaries in space and time. The Danube pays no mind to borders; it runs through 10 countries, while the Amazon runs through six and the Nile through five. The 20th century arguably didn’t begin until 1914 and plausibly can be thought of having ended in 1989. Then again, the 19th century probably began shortly before noon on July 14, 1789, and ended shortly before 11 a.m. on July 28, 1914, while the 16th century may have lasted from 1450 to 1640.
Which is why it’s possible to argue that 2013 won’t end a week and a half from now. It’s almost certainly going to extend into January and beyond.
This is no parlor trick, though it bears a strong resemblance to one. But if you stretch the definition of a year from a line of 365 days (or, every four years, 366) into an arc of events, then you will see that the tributaries of politics and the rivers of history do not confine themselves to the neat contrivances of the calendar, nor to the enduring rhythms of the Earth’s passage around the sun.
The year 2013 wasn’t so great that any of us is eager to extend it, but in truth the struggles set in motion in this year will not be resolved by New Year’s Eve, and the questions prompted throughout this year will not be answered by the time the Duke-Texas A&M game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome is completed that night. They’ll press on, through the national college football championship game a week later — and beyond.
There are two predominant reasons. This is the first year of a two-year Congress and many of the pieces of legislation begun this year will, as a matter of course that has happened 112 times in the past, slop over to the new year. This is thoroughly unremarkable.