2011 has gone out with a bang, both literally and figuratively. Early in the month of December, my husband was in a car accident and suffered a mild concussion and whiplash. The car was totaled. Then my son’s partner was sandwiched between two eighteen-wheelers. Again her car was totaled, although she miraculously walked away unscathed. On December 19th, we lost our beloved friend Prudence the beagle. Her loss still leaves an emptiness in our home. But by far, the worst December happening was on the 21st, when our precious daughter was also in a car accident. She suffered a broken collar bone, torn ligaments in her left ankle and a sprained wrist. All who analyzed the disaster concurred that if she had not been wearing her seatbelt, she would not be with us today. The gratitude I feel for fortuitous fate, unknown realities and responsible progeny is too profound to elaborate upon.
Given the above scenario, the commencement of a New Year is a welcome development. There is something about the prospect of starting over with a clean slate that is eminently appealing. And indeed, nature provides us with myriad examples of death and rebirth and the endless capacity for renewal. The fall leaves and carcasses of the unfortunate nourish the ground from whence they came. Each year the dormancy of winter gives way to sprouting buds and the fragrant breezes of spring. The birds return from their winter holidays. Snow melts. And green sprouts shoot out from a brown and desolate landscape. New Year reminds us of this promise of perpetual renewal.
Every 365.25 days, give or take, the Earth makes a complete revolution around the sun. Although we mark off days on a calendar and mark each revolution with a successive number, 2010, 2011, 2012, the Earth, sun and universe make no such distinction between one revolution and the next. Sometimes an axial wobble will tilt the Northern hemisphere to a slightly less illuminated trajectory, setting off a chain of reactions that plunge the Earth into an ice age. A correction in the opposite direction will set off an opposite chain of events, causing polar ice caps to melt. The tides ebb and flow, but the constancy of a solitary planet revolving around its sun in a predictable pattern remains timeless.
Nature teaches us that in spite of the eternal need of Western Homo sapiens for solutions, conformity, deeper meaning and happy endings, reality is a harsh affair. Everybody dies, justice is not always served, good people suffer, while the criminally insane prosper, and happy endings are the stuff of Hollywood movies and rarely reflect the real world. Shit happens. Our insistence of making the “best” of the situation obscures our seeing a larger, more fantastic truth.
Everybody dies, but each decaying carcass is the essential fodder for new life. Justice is not always served, but every hardship usually brings profound enlightenment. Good people suffer and bad ones prosper, but the good generally enjoy lives filled with love and friendship, while the sociopath is incapable of appreciating such blessings. By looking for happy endings we miss the bliss of everyday life.
Until the time that the sun implodes upon itself, our beloved home, Earth, will continue to revolve around it, predictably and profoundly, and this miracle should give us hope. Here is my wish for all to enjoy a sentient New Year surrounded by loved ones, community and purpose.