We Can Be Heroes
Baseless, foolish, naive hope. Bring it on, 2022.
New Year’s Eve is a sweet little knife edge of a holiday. It’s an illusion we create, that time is not simply a continuous arrow, but that there are segments in it, moments where we can pause and celebrate time itself.
I’m aware, on this December 31, of a gap. Gloom and doom spew forth everywhere I look. Omicron! Political division! Ecological catastrophe!
And I acknowledge the reality of those forces. Especially the last one. I feel it keenly.
Yet I feel tremendous hope, wildly out of proportion with the “evidence.” It’s been growing in me all year, fed by many sources. Nature's beauty and ferocity. Living at the foot of the mountains and close to the sea, every day I witness the magic and majesty of buds turning into leaves, of eagles coming down from the heights to hunt. Then there is the fearlessness of people working to protect wildlife and safeguard this beautiful planet. I am fortunate to be in contact with many of them and they inspire me. But more fundamentally, this irrational hope is grounded in the forcefulness of life itself. The force which pushes a blade of grass up through the dirt, that opens the rose bud, that changes a crawling thing into a butterfly – we all partake in this.
Addiction to separateness obscures our sense of connection, and prevents us from identifying with all life as our life. But like most addictions, this one too is fundamentally a dodge. By protecting ourselves, we think we might escape pain and possess pleasure. We just might trick the system. But no. We can’t.
We are destined to suffer, and that's good news.
Right now you might be thinking this is a pretty gloomy way to ring in the new year. But this suffering is the ground of our hope. It’s where we exercise our free will and in so doing, transform ourselves and our world.
Will suffering make us aggressive, inflicting our pain on others? Many people veer in this direction. Or will we use it to grow our hearts? Will we take what we can and fuck the rest of the world? Or will we find ways to share our bounty so that we and our neighbors can prosper together?
Such choices are available in every moment. And in making them, to paraphrase David Bowie, we can be heroes.
So this new year, I’m betting on ridiculous hope, a hope that goes against the grain, that defies the odds. Baseless, naïve, foolish – that's the stuff for me.
Why not go with the bad news? It's a sure thing, after all.
Because it takes my power away. And it helps ensure that we stay stuck where we are and I'm not ok with that. The new world doesn’t exist yet. It needs to be envisioned to be created. But we won’t be able to imagine it without hope.
So I invite you to find that small gap in time’s arrow and settle into stillness as the year switches over. What's there?
For me, it’s two cats purring in the sun. The sound of waves moving across rocks. A slight breeze in the olive grove that makes the leaves glitter. Birds chittering. Yellow wildflowers that showed up after the rain. A meal prepared with love and savored. Decades-old jokes that still make me laugh.
That’s a lot to celebrate. Here's hoping we can be heroes. Happy New Year!
Jean Fleming is the editor of Certain Age and in the process of constant rewilding.