Seventy-two years into this bruising, bewildering and blossoming life, revelatory insights still inspire my mind to ponder and my heart to seek the poet Ferlinghetti’s “rebirth of wonder.”
Perspective is the elder’s comforter. Wrinkled memories shout that I survived the boring ’50s, the wild ’60s, and all the other maudlin decades. Decades that changed their details but not their substance.
Human history swears that we are addicted to repetition. It is the only answer to life’s circle of insanity. Each year we hope for better but grow bitter as the months drone on. Hindsight debunks what foresight naively decreed. Only faith is left when our prayers turn into dust. 2020 was no different, despite the violent colors painted by the vulgar media hype. The good and the bad did their life-dueling dance.
Change the year, change the headlines, the merry-go-round runs perpetually up and down. Was Trump a greater villain than Nixon? Are these virulent viruses worse than their predecessors of 1918? Were the strides made by women and minorities greater or less than at other times in history? Will another presidential despot never darken the White House doors? Has the world seen the last of lethal illnesses? Will the world ever run out of greedy, selfish whackos and fools?
I would not bet on it.
2020 was a nasty year, but far from the worst and farther from the best. Life trudges on.
Actually, for me, 2020 offered bursts of inner opportunities. Pondering is a blessing to those whose dwell in elder-time. The older grow bolder as we dig deeper into ourselves. We are slow seekers of the mysteries to be glimpsed in solitude.
During a long life, odd ah-ha thoughts bubble up in weird moments unexpected. Over a bowl of cream of mushroom soup an epiphany revealed to me that for most of my seven decades I suffered from an irrational dependence on the delusion of my independence. On one masked, banal day in aisle 6 of Stop & Shop, a burst of divine insight revealed to my mushy mind that: not to ponder deeper is a sin against oneself.
Though a rare watcher of TV news, one sweaty night I succumbed to the temptation to revel in dystopian prophecies to scare myself witless and realized the penultimate cause of all the world’s problems was – adjectives. Imagine a world in which adjectives were banned! No more white people or black people or liberal people or red states or gay men or fat women or dumb kids or lousy spouses or shitty leaders or terrible, horrible, sad ugly years. Ban adjectives and civil simplicity would reign.
Essays obviously would be stripped of passion, and writers would drown themselves in gin. True, not all revelations hold up to scrutiny. Yet, it might be worth a try.
Every year is an amalgam of the horror and the holy, as we stumble through this earthly experiment panting for a day of balance. We glare at the events that serve our self-interests and puff our prejudices while bludgeoning all who dare to disagree. Personal attitude adjustments terrify our pet perspectives. Turning our mirrors into windows requires the strength of super-heroes.
At least that is my guilty truth. Maybe by 2044 I’ll figure it all out. And then again, maybe not.
Today, 2020 is the last chapter of life’s gritty how-to book. I smile as it lays dead in the heap of history’s tome. Memories must be newly made. I pray for lessons learned and that the old year’s cold echoes fade into the sunlit hopes of 2021. How long that takes is up to me. All that my dwindling time and experiential wisdom whisper in my soul’s ear is that the future will be discouragingly familiar in many aspects, and lustfully unique in ways unimagined.
Through the glory or gory of 2020, we survived … so bring tomorrow on. One day life will kill us, but probably not today. Thank God I believe in life after death; it makes life so much more than manageable. So, now I go to steep my tea, and “perpetually await the rebirth of wonder.”