I, and many, have indulged in the sensationalism of going on and on about how 2016 was a terrible year. “Only in 2016” and other variations has basically become the equivalent of lingo regarding the 90s. As in, in the 90s it was common to hear: “It’s the 90s.” or “What do you expect, it’s 199x” as if existing in the 90s was some sort of bubble of time where things that had never happened before were happening. And while that’s certainly true for a lot of things – technology progressed, various civil rights’ issues were coming to the forefront, etc – it’s also entirely false. Just a look at a catalogue of pre-Code Hollywood film will show that. There is nothing new under the sun.
So, yes, while I indulge in the memes of saying good riddance to 2016 – which was certainly a year full of horrible events outside of anyone’s political ideologies (the horrific and too-quickly-forgotten tragedy in Orlando, for one example) – there are those who have been saying good riddance to every year in hopes that the next will be better. I know I have been one. I can look back and see a history of Facebook statuses or tweets or blog entries elsewhere that tells me all that I’m feeling now has been felt before.
For some 2016 is a way of life. In some places of the world time still runs together and it’s not measured by the media. They don’t bemoan the ills on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere else. For some people, and for varying reasons, 2010 was horrible as was 2011 as was 2012… so of course 2016 was too.
Yes, I indulge in the memes, but while seriously dwelling on my goals and hopes and prayers for the new year as well as reflecting on the past one I’ve come to have a sense of conviction that even if I had my own valid struggles (e.g. depression, family strife, uncertainty about the next chapter in my life, shaken faith, etc.) or had my own valid concerns about the future of the world as a whole, the lives of my friends, the lives of people I’ve never met but feel compassion for at the end of the day I have been indulging in sensationalism. It’s December 31, 2016 and I still have a roof over my head, a job, food to eat my fill and then some of, a car, access to clean water, an excess of access to media and entertainment and knowledge, family and friends to turn to, and a stockpile of materialistic possessions that are meaningless in the grand scheme of things.So at the end of the year I’m blessed regardless of what the future holds and it would be careless to lose sight of that just because the same bad things that have been happening for centuries have somehow been magnified for many this year by the fact that we have near-instant access to these bad things in addition to platforms to discuss and dissent as we please.
That’s not to say that no one is right to really feel down about 2016. It had horrific moments. There were events that left much of the world divided. There were things that made us take good long looks in the mirror and realize maybe battle lines will be drawn and maybe we will eventually need to pick a side. There were reminders that we are all still very bound by the human condition and that love, mercy, brotherhood, and compassion are still very radical ideas.
What I do think, however, is that may of us going on and on about 2016 are doing so from an outsider’s POV. For example: “NODAPL!” we cry (or if we’re a celebrity go get a photo-op with in the name of solidarity and, I’m sure genuine, concern for the struggles of others), while going about our day and taking our clean water for granted. I’m not saying we can all up and go rush out to a protest site realistically. But THAT is the point.
True struggle takes us beyond what should be realistic because we see the need as far more important than practicality. While we’re not all going to be history makers, there is a reason the history makers usually have stories with a connecting theme of: they did it even when it didn’t make sense and/or the whole world was against them. And there is a reason people complain about armchair activists. If you never move beyond a point of realizing the truth to doing something that puts the truth into tangible action then you’re not doing much in the grand scheme of things. Getting discussions going is great. Talking at length about the ills of the world in the hopes of teaching is great. And none of us are going to be perfect “allies” because there is always room for growth, correction, reflection, and so on. But radical change requires action.
So here is why I’m hopeful for 2017, personally.
Superficially, I’m hopeful for the same reason I was hopeful for 2016 (and other years before it). The sensationalism of “NEW” dictates that we can make a fresh start. We are obsessed with new chapters, and new adventures, and new beginnings. Not because we really want change, many of us are actually afraid of it, but because it offers hope that we can overcome something (maybe a shortcoming or a bad situation) or end up somewhere better than where we were before. We start our new diets on Monday, while usually getting in the last little bit over the weekend before starting. We send off bachelorhood with bawdy celebrations. We celebrate birthdays as if the books of our lives are divided into chapters by age. So, of course, there is a siren call to be heard in the ringing in of a new calendar year. It’s a chance to inspire ourselves. It’s a reminder that hope springs eternal.
After reflection I’m also hopeful because if 2016 taught me anything, it’s that I have much more to learn and that this life will always be an up and down, unpredictable journey that requires us to move and dare and dream and give and so much more in order to get the most out of it. Not doing so is like buying a bare garden or farm only to do nothing with it. Or like the parable of planting a seed and then doing nothing to tend its growth.
I’m hopeful because it occurred to me that 2017 isn’t only about planting new seeds. It’s about tending the seeds planted in 2016 that are ready to sprout. It’s about tending to the seeds planted in years past that are now a little more grown and require new techniques to promote stronger growth. It’s even about evaluating what seeds are not yielding good crops and finding out why. It’s looking for weeds and plucking them out. It’s about so many things more than just saying goodbye to one year with a, “Well, that sucked!” and pretending like things will change if start over fresh with the same formula as before.
I’m hopeful for 2017 not because I think the world-at-large will drastically change. It very well may get worse. But I’m hopeful that the good seeds sewn that I couldn’t see in 2016 will sprout to life in 2017. I’m hopeful that next year the garden of my life will be more beautiful than in years past. And if I have one goal it’s to take this newfound awareness that life doesn’t exist in the span of a year and become more active in tending to my garden so that it may flourish. I also hope to invite others in to help me tend it as well as doing what I can to more actively help tend the gardens of those who’ve trusted me to help them and the garden of the world-at-large.
I will leave you with this song from the film La La Land which contains the following lyrics, that capture the feeling of hope I have going into 2017:
She told me: A bit of madness is key to give us new colors to see.
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us.
So bring on the rebels, the ripples from pebbles, the painters, and poets, and plays.
If 2017 is better it’ll be because we answered the call. It needs you and it needs me. It needs ripples and pebbles and seeds and painters and poets and activists and people who laugh and people who cry and people who dream in the midst of the hardships and division and heartaches and mistakes.
So here’s to the hearts that broke in 2016. Here’s to the people who dreamed and kept dreaming. And, yes, here’s to even the messes that were made; may they inspire us to keep moving forward. Here’s to 2017.