I started to write a New Year’s post last night … it began like this …
Well, my friends, we made it through this year of sheer hell. Most of us have survived not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also the pandemics of hatred and stupidity that have taken over our newsfeeds and the headlines in every major news source. Sadly, I must remind you that a ‘new year’ is but a manmade contrivance to help us keep up with our lives, not an actual reset of events. That said, I think 2021 will start just as 2020 ended … with a raging pandemic and political chaos; with people dying by the hundreds or thousands, with a megalomaniac and his bootlickers attempting to turn this republic into an autocracy by overturning our votes. Nothing changes just because when the clock strikes midnight you pop the cork on a champagne bottle, kiss your loved ones, and turn the calendar to January 2021. You won’t wake up in the morning to find that Donald Trump is in prison and that we actually have an intelligent, concerned president. You won’t wake up to find that you can now go out for dinner, take in a movie, or pop over to the mall for a bit of shopping without wearing a mask. You still won’t find toilet tissue, Lysol, or Clorox disinfectant wipes on your grocery shelves. You will still be limited to two packages of meat at your local grocery store. You will still be worried sick about sending your child back to school. And more than 1,813,000 people will still be dead worldwide of a virus that is nowhere near being controlled.
Um … not quite the tone I was shooting for, but very much an honest assessment. Then, I began to wonder what my New Year’s post five years ago, the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 was like, so I went digging around in the archives. I think you will find my words kinder and more hopeful back then, plus I think that, knowing what we know now, you will find some humour in it!
I do not quite understand why it is, but most of us welcome in the new year with great hope for the next 365 days, almost as if we believe that the slate we were using for the past 365 days was wiped clean at the exact moment the ball hit bottom in Times Square, and we are now starting afresh with new hopes, new dreams, a clean slate on which to write a new story, a better one. Okay, okay … I am not going to be a the one to dash those dreams, those ethereal images that you are seeing with such joy. Life will see to that soon enough, probably when you awaken in the morning and turn on the news, pick up the morning newspaper, or boot up the computer.
Do you make resolutions at New Year’s? I do not, so I am always curious about people who do. Oh sure, I hope that I can do better at certain things than I have in the past, but that is pretty much a daily hope of mine. Do people who do make resolutions start thinking about their resolutions a week in advance? A month? I once had a friend who made his resolution on the morning of January 1st … same resolution every year … when he awakened with a massive hangover and resolved then and there to quit drinking, effective immediately. His resolution usually lasted for about 12 hours. Have you ever made a resolution and actually kept it throughout the year? I don’t think I personally know anybody whose resolution was anything other than a dim memory by January 31st, so I am curious if some people who do make resolutions actually do manage to keep to them.
I do not make resolutions, but I think about, based on the past year, what the year 2016 might bring. It would be lovely, and I am sure some say this is their hope for the new year, to think that within the next twelve months we will see peace and prosperity around the world, an end to wars in the Middle East, an end to racism and bigotry in our own nation, more love and tolerance, less hatred toward our fellow man, and an end to the highly annoying facebook memes that attempt to compress complex socio-political issues into a single sentence. Who wouldn’t love to see an end to ISIS, Boko Haram, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations? These are dreams we could all share, even if we are divided on who should be the next president of the U.S. But sadly, just like the person who buys a lottery ticket and goes to bed dreaming of a new home, a new car, and telling his boss “I quit”, when we look back a year from now, I am pretty sure those problems will still exist, others will have joined them, and people will still be … well, human.
Filosofa is not a cynic, contrary to what you may think. I am actually known in my circle of friends as quite the optimist … annoyingly to some. But I am a pragmatist, a realist, and as such I do not live in a world of dreams. One of the readers of this blog commented yesterday that we need to say to ourselves, “okay, the world is a mess … now how do we fix it?” I like that attitude. So, while I do not make resolutions, I do have hopes. Unlike hopes for world peace, an end to all war, etc., my hopes are that people will start asking themselves “what can I do to make the world a little bit better?” And then start looking for answers. The answers are all around you, if you just realize what the question is. Many years ago, my answer to this question was, and still is, to treat everybody as human beings. These days, I try to make a difference by writing, in hopes that I might be able to make just one person think about things that matter. Most of us, realistically, are not in a position to bring about world peace. We cannot all be Mother Teresa or Gandhi. We cannot all be leaders of nations. But we can make small differences within our own small spheres of influence, in our community, in our neighborhood. We can volunteer one day a month at a homeless shelter or food pantry, we can help a neighbor who is struggling, we can donate unwanted clothing or food items to the poor. We can find ways to fight violence without resorting to more violence. We can talk a little bit nicer to people, say “good morning” and “thank you so much” to the young person who bags our groceries. Think that doesn’t make a difference? Think again.
So my hope for the new year is that we all try very hard to find the small things that we can do to help people we come into contact with every day. No, it will not end the conflict in Syria, it will not eradicate Iran’s enriched uranium supply, and it will not remove Donald Trump from the presidential race, but a lot of little deeds add up to making the world just a little bit better. You can be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution … your choice.
In closing, I wish each and every one of you a year of peace within your own family and circle of friends, good health and that you be able to meet all of your needs. Happy New Year!