As 2020 recedes into memory, I am struck again by the insight that this particular year is a watershed in the history of the world. Generations from now, perhaps even a millenia from now, should our kind survive, there will be debate as to the import of 2020. The date will be memorized by schoolchildren, all over the world. It’ll be like 1620, or 1776, or 1949. COVID will rank with The Great Depression, World Wars I and II, the fall of the Roman Empire, the Rise of the British, the American Century, the Colonial Era in Africa and the East, ad infinitum. Nothing will be too large to bare comparison, I expect. Except, perhaps, the first meaningful contact with ETs, which, of course, might happen any day. Admit that last bit. You agree, don’t you? After 2020, my dears, all bets are off.
It is not so much that the event itself is of such overwhelming significance. Plagues are nothing new and this won’t be the last. Rather it is the way that COVID has effected our experience of everything else. With the economy shut down, isolation, and systemic collapse (even if only a temporary collapse), it has acted as a kind of reverse telescope, allowing us to see all these other events as it were from a distance. Our perspective changed as so many daily distractions disappeared under the weight of this massive world wide memento mori.
It is, however, fascinating to reflect that for each of us, young and old, the experience has been radically different. We’ve all taken our part in the main event, and yet how different it has been, even among close friends.
For me, it has been, all things considered, a wonderful year, albeit in the midst of surrounding disasters. I, personally, have had a pretty good time. I’ve learned to pray and meditate on a regular basis, and for the first time in years, I feel that I have a sense that my daily schedule can be productive and creative. I’ve learned that I can tolerate life quite well without much personal interaction, although it took a while for me to settle into that. I’ve developed a level of emotional maturity far beyond anything I’ve known before. I’ve discovered a deep well of hope I didn’t know I possessed. All in all, I feel more as if I’ve gained a year than lost one.
And, even in the face of the terrible loss of life, and the psychological and financial costs so many have endured, it feels to me that much of the world has gained a year rather than lost one. It may be that in this year, finally, we had a chance to step back from and look honestly at the realities of racism in America. And a chance to see clearly, for those who look, the genuine danges of rising facism. The quiet and astonishing moments of ecological recovery have provided hope for the movement to manage climate change with wisdom and hope.
Overall, I am happy and hopeful, looking forward to what is to come.
But should I be? Am I callous, knowing how, for others, this has been a year of unimaginable grief and loss, ending with a vision of the future that might be far less than what the might have been imagined a year ago. I know it’s been hell for many, in many places. What am I supposed to feel?
What is decent?
I honestly don’t know. I’m happy, but I’m confused. Relieved, but confused. Hopefull, but confused.
Mostly — well, you get it: mostly confused. But, whatever: I say, let’s hear it for the thing with feathers!
How about you?