Every year during the holidays we look back at how far we’ve traveled on the pathway to mature autonomy. We look to the spirit of renewal. Hope, faith and love, not to mention proficiency and resilience, are possibilities, not givens. Our journey together has brought them to life and enabled us to sustain and extend this optimism, maturity and affection to others.
I hope that you will participate fully in the spirit that characterizes the holidays. Share your renewal. Bake cookies. Send holiday greetings. Light the candles and brighten the lives of others with gifts—big checks, big help and big hearts.
We make this effort of renewal in very sombre times. On top of the serious implications of political rancor, racial tension, climate change, limited access to adequate health care, and the deterioration of the infrastructure, to name several of the critical problems we've faced for years, there’s more. Much more. In 2020 a virus of which we had never heard changed the landscape—the conditions and circumstances—in every country around the globe. Here, now, in December, we are quarantined, still in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic after the suffering and painful death of more than 317,000 Americans, as of this morning.
Millions of us have lost our jobs. Millions of others in the health care industry have been tasked almost beyond endurance. Millions more, those essential people who staff our stores and post offices and maintain our power and water supplies and telecommunication and transportation networks, have also put their lives on the line. Our institutions, including many schools are closed. Millions of Americans have needed food assistance and millions more face eviction. The numbers are staggering.
Now we know what we look like in a mask and have begun to learn the inexact art of social distancing when we must go out to the doctor and to the grocery store. Mainly, though, we are sheltering in place, separated from an in-person connection with family and friends except those in our carefully managed bubble which is purposely very small to limit our exposure to the virus.
Furthermore, when and how the pandemic will “bottom out” is yet to be known. Thank goodness for the vaccine. We hope that it will stop the spread of the virus and its attendant pain and grief and allow us a glimpse of what promises to be a stumbling recovery of the economy and of the work, travel and cultural opportunities to which we had been accustomed. What’s more, the worldwide toll has been exorbitant and we don’t really know what resources and further sacrifices will be demanded of us. Already unnerved and spent, we may be tempted to withdraw from the complexity of lived experience into the wayward drift of egoism.
But let’s face it, life has never in fact been predictable or storybook like. It lacks formal structure and consensus. People aren’t perfect or all good or all evil. In addition, life comes with no hard-copy or digital manual or FAQ. Yes, there are some rules, licenses and diplomas to guide us. Yet so much of life just happens and, unfortunately, many of us have not been party to the education and experience that would help us to avoid judgments, choices and decisions whose unimagined consequences make life hopeless and hellish.
Moreover, the “sense” that life makes to a good many of us is not based on the maturity of autonomy and the conscionable behavior that enables the transcendence of our darkest impulses. Scoreboard, as it caters to our egos, provides a too narrow "sense" that limits us to the pursuit of status. So, as we have learned, we must take it upon ourselves. We have found unity and identity in the acquisition of a philosophy and organization of selfhood to design a way of life that does make sense. Indeed, it is upon this acquisition that we measure who we are and take our place as one of us, a stand at once becoming and humbling.
As I write the holiday message, I remind us that this is not the time to lose our resolve and withdraw from the struggle. With the cognitive distance, resilience and contemplative abilities that we have acquired over the years, we are strong and resourceful. Able to confront the bedrock and realities of existence, to enjoy its fruits and to bear its cruelties, we are in an excellent position to contribute back to the world our utility and good will.
As it turns out, you and I are still pioneering, still struggling with the truths and realities of our shared existence. It is an honor to be on this fourth paradigm journey with you. My very best to you and those you hold dear, and may the holidays and new year herald and restore the faith of each one of us in the ultimate value of living life from principled practices.