ALCHEMY OF WORDS
ALCHEMY OF WORDS
photo credit: Thomas Lloyd Qualls
If ever a year needed to be broken up with it is 2020. The Go Home You’re Drunk meme has never been more appropriate. Unquestionably it has been the most challenging year in memory. Probably in the last 100 years. That’s a long time, if you think about it. Or really, even if you don’t.
During the last 100 years, whether you think about it or not, there have been wars and natural disasters and diseases that have been devastating to certain populations. Events that caused suffering, mass death, and destruction of infrastructure. But nothing on the global scale that covid-19 unleashed. And then there is all the other stuff.
Because the pandemic would have been more than enough. But of course, in this year that went on for at least a decade, there were all manner of other things. Not the least of which was the five years of wildfires this summer, literally all over the American West. Already losing our minds from the isolation of the pandemic, our only respite being the ability to get outside and enjoy nature, 2020 decided to trap us inside our homes, or risk hazardous air quality outside. Fortunately, many of us already had hazmat suits. But being outside in a hazmat suit really isn’t the same.
Woven into this year’s tapestry was the mostly peaceful and long overdue protests of Black Lives Matter. Somehow, groups of people gathered together to protest the shootings of unarmed civilians was threatening to a segment of society. Pointing out the empirical atrocity of a police officer unnecessarily pinning a fellow human to the ground with his knee for over 8 minutes until that person dies was seen as an afront to our values.
Like most every other thing I can think of, the activities and the messages of the Black Lives Matter movement were occasionally hijacked for one reason or another. Some were opportunists who showed up with the sole purpose of acting out, possibly to satisfy their own unspecified sense of disenfranchisement. Possibly for more nefarious reasons, including a desire to paint the BLM movement as violent, when by and large it is not. This is a conversation that will and should go on for years to come. And hopefully it is much more than just a conversation.
Of course, it was also an election year. And not just any election year. But one upon which the fate of the country seemed to rest. Perhaps rest is not the correct word. Not one of us rested during this process.
photo credit: Thomas Lloyd Qualls
In 2020, the country was like a highjacked race car that had been dismantled piece by piece by an unskilled 16 year-old who thought he could make it run even better, despite his lack of mechanical education. Now the nation lies in pieces in the driveway. The bolts rusting, the gaskets drying out, oil everywhere. Meanwhile, the teenager, who has neither the knowledge nor the inclination to put the parts back together, posts frenetically on social media about how he is the best mechanic ever. And, in a true sign of the times, a surprising number of people believe him.
The lead up to the vote count felt like either those tense and drawn-out moments before a tornado hits, or maybe the world’s longest birthing labor, in which the whole planet was in the birth canal. That experience was followed not by a great exhale and well-deserved rest, but by weeks of recounting and of wondering if any planted judges would undermine our democratic process, despite one candidate having won by over 7 million votes, or even if the electoral college representatives would vote according to their mandates.
All of that is mostly behind us. But there is still plenty of tension. The teenager continues to dig in his heels and refuses to share his tools. He continues to tell anyone who will listen that the car in the driveway is his. He continues to break as many of its parts as he can. And it is unclear how, when, or if he will get up and go home when the time comes. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: his mess will be left for others to clean up.
Other devastation visited us, including hurricanes, which in other years would have captured more attention. The teenager though, mostly consumed by twitter wars and rounds of golf, did almost nothing to help with the pandemic, or anything else. And lately he has not made any pretense of leading, pretty much telling us all we were on our own.
There are, for sure, good things that came out of this historically bad year. The winners of the election not only promise to start rebuilding the car, but to do so in ways and with technologies that are long overdue. Also, one of the winners of the election made history twice by being the first woman and the first woman of color to sit in the Vice President’s chair. Again, in any other year, this would be grabbing more headlines.
It was a year that challenged our resilience, our creativity, our adaptability, our courage, our empathy, our senses of self, our willingness to serve and to sacrifice, and to hold steadfast vision of the future we want for ourselves. In large and small ways, we met these challenges and found reserves and resources we had either forgotten or had no idea existed.
Also, the murder hornets did not sweep the country, as once feared. But other things most certainly did. Including the awareness that over 70 million of us apparently live in an alternate reality. This is no small thing. And it is only the beginning of another long and uncomfortable conversation that we must have.
But after what we’ve all been through and achieved in 2020, I believe we are up to this challenge. Oneness is not just a new age buzzword. It is the reality of our existence. It is up to us to acknowledge that fact and to begin to work towards it in earnest. It is time to rebuild all that is broken with its blueprint.
For all we have lost and gained this year, I am grateful we are on this path together. Happy New Year, my friends.