It’s that point in “the rolling year” (thank you, Dickens), when – if you have the time – you may be contemplative. Why not? For what is the New Year’s celebration, if not to reflect? What are our lives, if not an outward reflection of our inner selves? The standard behavior of a New Year’s party, the bacchanalia and ballyhoo, is a cheap and paltry glow. How can we possibly use this party-popper time as the point from which we will resolve to be better, somehow?
A dear friend just died. His life stands as conviction that his god was served, that he walked in faith, and that he impacted those on whom his life reflected for good. That twinkle in his eye gave you to know you had nothing to dread (Ref. 2). The songs sung at the celebration of his life were full of joy and redemption. No need for a better diet or the patch (although he did try to quit smoking throughout his long life). His legacy is a light cast over his family and friends.
There is much resolve to change the current order of things: gun control, prison and police reform, immigration policy and the refugee crisis, to name only a few. And, if you’re an American, you have likely been pulled into the presidential campaign rhetoric, whether you care for any of the candidates or not. Still, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, overshadowed by things that seem colossal in scope.
Our media-driven era has provided global views, sweeping vistas, and illumination into areas of strife and conflict that were heretofore kept dark or distant. And to borrow from an old Indigo Girls song, Closer to Fine, “darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable.” As a country, as communities, and as consumers, we participate in feeding this beast by forwarding headlines without research for validity (and sometimes, unfortunately, without even reading the full piece). We cannot keep up with the demand for exposed truth, so we fall prey to popularized pulp, pushing it out to friends and acquaintances.
Demand reform? Become informed? Yes.
But also, as Father Time moves us forward, we might demand more of ourselves. We might take seriously the call to be a light unto the darkness. We might move our lights from under bushels. Those qualities we wish to see, or that we have celebrated in others, might take place in our hearts, given the proper resolution. This New Year’s ephemera has encouragement, on its back cover, to “Use Your Head, Buddy!” and “Start the New Year Right!,” offering correspondence courses to former service men and women from World War I – the ‘war to end all wars.’ And still, wars wage on. While global circumstances continue to cause suffering, we might endeavor to improve our own by simply shedding light.
The next words in Closer to Fine are: “and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” True, because light starts as a tiny pin-prick, a burst, an ember. One light may not illuminate the night. Combined, though, lights – the power of light – can overcome the darkness.
As I watch the crystal ball drop on Times Square this year, as my fellow men (and women) shout and dance and carry on, this is my prayer. When the party streamers stop falling and the paper confetti comes to a rest, underfoot where teams of street sweepers pick up the pieces, let your inner resolution shine.
(Note: Thanks to my photo subjects, who gamely made our holiday light hanging look delightful…even when it was challenging.)
1. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843.
2. Clement C. Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas, 1823.
3. Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine, 1989.
4. The American Legion Weekly, Vol. 4 No. 52, December 29, 1922.