A New Year
Looking back and forward
A new year is invariably a time for reflection.
We take stock. We wonder. We make resolutions.
There is a lot of looking back at what happened. And we try to imagine what the coming year will bring.
But such anticipation is to some extent futile and a lesson in humility. As we reckon with our current world, let us try to remember what we expected from 2022 — and how the year both conformed to and defied our expectations.
Entering 2022, there were big, broad patterns driving deep concern. And many of these remain: threats to American democracy, assaults on our civil and constitutional rights, the pollution of our planet and its dangerously changing climate. These powerful forces are less swayed by short-term actions, individual efforts, and quotidian fluctuations. They span years and even decades, requiring eternal diligence.
But even as these challenges remain pressing and urgent, we can find reasons for hope that we couldn’t have known a year ago. A midterm election, defying historical precedent, saw a strong showing for those who rejected the Big Lie. There was also a rallying to candidates and ballot initiatives supporting women’s autonomy over their bodies. And Congress passed the most significant climate action legislation in this nation’s history. In all these areas, the battle for a more just and safe world remains; yet we enter 2023 with foundations of resilience upon which to build.
Some of today’s headline stories were unforeseeable a year ago. While there were rumblings of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, few if any predicted how it would unfold, thanks to the bravery of the Ukrainian military and people, the country’s steadfast leadership, and support from the United States and our allies.
We have continued to see extreme wealth exert its power in troubling ways on our society. This year, the phenomenon included the purchase of Twitter by a billionaire who appears intent on polluting our political discourse. And yet perhaps this past year also represented an apogee for how we as a society revere extreme wealth. It turns out billionaires may not all be geniuses after all. That 2022 also saw at least some resurgence for organized labor may be part of the same story. Economic fairness and a healthier business environment could be emerging trends.
What new movements will arise in 2023? And what will falter? What change will come to our political world? Our economy? Our social cohesion? Will we look back a year from now and see more progress than setbacks? Will some completely new challenge appear that upends us? Will there be new fountains of resilience and hope?
The new year forces us to recognize the unpredictability that governs our personal lives, as well. We wonder who might not be with us a year from now. Where will we find joy? And where will there be pain? We understand that some years bring more of the former and others more of the latter. We brace for hardship and pray for happiness.
As we reflect on all that is unknowable, we wrestle with the fact that much of what will affect us in 2023 will be beyond our individual control. And yet, we endeavor not to be stymied by cynicism. New years represent occasions to embrace new resolutions for actions to benefit ourselves, others, and our larger communities. We can see that our own efforts, when combined with the efforts of others, can multiply in their impact. So let us consider how we may work together in 2023.
Each year represents a cycle. We travel in our orbit around the sun in a journey that returns us to where we have been. But in other ways, we do not return. Time marches in one direction. We can look in the rearview mirror and understand what we see. But we cannot turn around and go back.
New Year’s can help us refocus what we do with the lives that we have. We can see that new beginnings are possible, in ways big and small, even for those of us who have had many trips around the sun. We can embrace hope and resilience while acknowledging life’s inherent uncertainty.
The days will get longer. The weather will warm. And Earth will bloom once again. Isn’t this proof enough of a happy new year? And isn’t it a reason to resolve to protect and defend all that makes life special and beautiful?
Happy New Year to all.
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