It has been a full year since the Coronavirus pandemic manifested in full and a couple months into a dramatic political transfer of power. Oh, and three months into the new year, 2021.
In thinking back on the year of Covid and especially how crazy it was this time of year twelve months ago, it is hard to remember with accuracy exactly what it was like. Just like it is hard to process all that has happened since. All that is happening now.
It has become fashionable in today’s culture to talk about how terrible a previous year was and hope the current one will get better. I remember thinking, back in January of 2020, that this was an important election year and that it might be a turning point to put the rough 2019 behind us. And then 2020 showed us what tough can be.
But here we are in 2021. After a year of Covid, am I worse off, better off, or the same? Not so easy to measure.
Hope and Happenings
Sure it is easy, and again – fashionable, to say it is so much worse than it was before. Just like we focus on today’s unfolding events and claim the world is falling apart. How quickly we forget the troubles humanity has been through.
The truth is this: the world has always been a broken place. There has always been violence and oppression, superficiality and complacency. None of these things are new. And my worry is that our obsession with hoping in the next year (or the next president or the next season or job or raise) is that we are missing the point.
We are hoping that “things” will change. That our imagined set of perfect circumstances will align. And, once they do, we are quite sure we will then be satisfied and content. Which we probably wouldn’t. We don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.
And so, we are on this carousel, Trading one set of problems for another. Focusing on one problem as if we are just a happening or two away from true, deep, and lasting betterment.
We aren’t. And that is because the carousel of circumstances is an imperfect machine. It is like if everyone in the world were granted a wish. So many wishes would be incompatible with wishes made by neighbors – Yankees fans and Red Sox fans couldn’t both have a World Series championship, for example. Not only that, but our wishes would have consequences we cannot foresee or control. Life is too diverse and complicated and messy. We see too incompletely.
Putting our hope in happenings is so dangerous. Because we start to blame the happenings for our lack of contentment. And it is a short leap to find persons to blame for those happenings not coming to be, or not being what we thought they’d be. And it blinds us to our own faults – the fault is all “out there”. The world is to blame. We blame the year 2020, as if it were some person with a will of itself. Maybe 2021 will be a nice, sexy person with all of the answers. Or, if we’re past hope there, maybe 2022 has some time to develop a sense of character.
Hope and Perspective
I remember in April or May of last year, when restrictions were just starting to lift and it felt like a lid was coming off of New York City. We shared with family and friends about how hard it had been AND about the good things we had discovered. Covid had forced us to slow down, to reevaluate how we spent our time and what we focused on. It was an opportunity.
We’re too sick of Covid, perhaps, to see it that way anymore. But the truth is there are going to be bizarre, confusing, and evil happenings in our world. Sure we need to be diligent in avoiding them and fighting against them. But to put our hope in avoiding them is, I believe, a grave mistake.
My hope is not in 2021 or 2022. It is not in one political party or social movement. It is in my own choices. My choice to perceive. To look back on 2020 with a strange and lamenting sort of fondness. To see 2021, warts and all, as an opportunity to make the best decisions I can. To love others and try to develop patterns of thankfulness rather than patterns of grumbling and blame.
Because the things that really matter, that really make life worth living, are available in any and all circumstances. I can choose love no matter what is going on. I can communicate truth and treat others with kindness no matter what is happening around me.