Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome MMIX

What a difference a day makes, or so says the song of the same title. It is amazing how we make such a big noise and raise such a huge ruckus when we usher in a new year. Would we take the efforts, energies and monies we spend bringing in the new year and instead put it towards erasing poverty, eradicating illness and easing suffering in the world, we might achieve great results. But because of human nature, that will never happen. The reason is that the new year is a personal milestone shared by everyone. It is a vindication that means no matter how well our means or how poorly we are faring in the world, we are still here. Our celebration of the new year recognizes in a strange way our own mortality in that it indicates that we have passed another precise cycle of shared time measurement. The most appropriate verse in the Bible that deals with this is found in Kohelet or Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Of course, for those of us who grew up in the Sixties, will recognize those words (or words very similar) as lyrics to the immortal classic "Turn, Turn, Turn." Penned by Pete Seeger, that song was one of my favorites by the folk-rock group The Byrds, whose members included Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. Seeger wrote the song back in the Fifties, but didn't release it until 1962. Others who have covered it include The Limeliters, Judy Collins, The Seekers, Dolly Parton, Nina Simone, Chris DeBurgh, and Mary Hopkin, who issued it twice: first as the "b" side to "Those Were the Days" and the later in Welch when it was titled "Tro, Tro, Tro." So, as we prepare to take our places on "The Great Mandala," and look to the promise of 2009, we can't but help look back at the disasters and triumphs of 2008. Although we selected our first African American president in an election process that featured some of the best and the worst moments for our nation last year, we also saw the economy stall and nosedive. Many hundreds of thousands of workers are either out of work or fear they may be victims of the economic crisis in the coming months, not the least of whom are automotive workers. Names like Linens N Things, Mervyns, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Aloha Airways have disappeared. Experts are very cautious these days eyeing giant companies like Circuit City, who filed for bankruptcy protection last year. The costs associated with the Bernard Madoff scandal have only just now become evident. By this time next year we may have a handle on how deep the losses extend. It was only a few days ago that we learned that Kevin Bacon and wife Kyra Sedgwick were but one degree of separation away. Numbers of their losses were not released, but we can only speculate that they were extensive. We also lost a number of highly visible celebrities such as Heath Ledger, Paul Newman and Tim Russert. Yet, through it all we kept our demeanor, recalling the many good things they did in their all-too-short lives while shedding tears for those they left behind. Newspapers in general suffered through another year of downturn, while the Internet scored modest gains. My blog began as just printed words and now is heard over broadcasts of Radio-J. Like any other new year, the world looks to 2009 with expectation and promise and dread and fear. No wonder the Romans cast the two-faced god Janus for the namesake of the first month of the calendar. We are cautious as we look to the past and hopeful as we look to the future. I hope the hard times are over soon enough and that in one more year's time we may see steady progress and, if nothing else, the light at the end of the tunnel.

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