New Year reflections

Can you believe another year is gone?

And quite a year it was. I lost three of my heroes: Kevorkian, Jobs, and Hitchens.

Key world happenings included the Arab Spring, setting in motion regime change in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, in turn, inspiring protest in Syria and Russia and leading to the founding of our own Occupy Wall Street movement.

European economies experienced unprecedented strains, with Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and, now, Italy facing fiscal default, with potential to affect global markets and renew recession.

In Washington, Congress saw itself embroiled in unprecedented partisan conflict over government spending and revenue sources.

In December, the last American combat troops withdrew from Iraq, bringing an end to America’s nearly decade long war.

Some things didn’t change at all:

In the Middle East, Iran, by all informed accounts, continued efforts to achieve a nuclear bomb.

Here at home, our economy remained enmeshed in stagnancy, with markets weak and millions unemployed.

At the personal level, we had a joyful event in the marriage of Matthew, my step-son, to Meredith in a lovely September wedding at a horse ranch, with the foothills of Sonoma County, CA, as its backdrop.

Last January I began this blog. Now, nearly, a year later, it has somehow survived.

I hope good things happened for each of you as well.

For me, entering into a new year always has this spooky edge to it, given our inability to know its events, doubtless a good thing. The idea should be to live with the flexibility of trees, flowing with rather than against life’s winds. We can just maybe push a new year in a direction more to our liking, choosing to act rather than react.

To be sure, 2012 will see another presidential election, dooming us to ubiquitous sound bites orchestrated to manipulate voter trust. As I write, I foresee a third political party, led by Ron Paul; the nomination of Romney to oppose Obama; and a decisive victory for the latter. The health of our economy will prove the defining issue.

I think most of us are likely to view the passage of a year with mixed feelings. Hopefully, we came out on top in 2011.

A new year, on the other hand, can help rekindle our hope it will conclude better than the one we relinquish. If humans possess any nobility, it includes its capacity for buoyancy, the fervency to take resolve to somehow compensate for the previous year’s follies of external events and our own inertia. After all, life is hardly all fate and conspiracy, caprice and malice, or simply a throw of the dice.

The poet Tennyson expresses my sentiments, and I think yours, in these memorable lines from In Memoriam. I wish each of you the New Year’s best.


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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