Thoughts on the new year

2005.

It’s a nice round number. We always seem to have an affinity for the round numbers. Five years (four if you want to be technical) into the new millennium, I’m happy that humanity hasn’t managed to destroy itself yet. Not that we haven’t tried. I watched Les Invasions Barbares yesterday. There’s a conversation between Rémy, who is dying, and a nun who works in the hospital. He blows apart the notion that the 20th century was perhaps the bloodiest century on record, even if 135 million were killed in wars, gulags, camps, etc:

In the 16th century, the Spanish and the Portuguese managed, without gas chambers or bombs, to slaughter 150 million Indians in Latin America. With axes! That’s a lot of work, Sister. Even if they had Church support, it was an achievement. So much so that the Dutch, English, French and later Americans followed their lead and butchered another 50 million in North America. 200 million dead in all! The greatest massacre in history took place right here, all around us. And not the tiniest holocaust museum. The history of mankind is a history of horrors!

And yet it continues.

There’s a comic that I read called ‘The Joy of Tech’ which is usually technology-based. Sometimes, the cartoonist, though, will use space aliens to poke fun at things. Ah, the ability of outside observers to pin-point the problem exactly and to be able to say just what needs to be said. This week, the first space alien says, ‘So, explain this to me again?’ And the second, ‘They spend most of their time fighting and creating disasters, yet when there’s a natural disaster, they help each other.’ The caption to the comic reads, ‘So are we halfway evolved or halfway extinct?’

Those of you who read on a regular basis know that I was a bit bipolar in 2004–between despair and hope for humanity. I think I’m just about in the middle at the moment. The earthquake/tsunami has both given me hope that the world might come together around the common need of fellow humans, while at the same time I’ve been utterly disgusted by the US’s response–the nation that paints itself as leading the world as a shining beacon of hope and freedom had to be cajoled into giving more than a miserly contribution to helping to save the lives of survivors. Bush never called off his vacation in Texas. He spent most of the week clearing brush and riding his bike and spending time with his family. How nice. Meanwhile, the German Chancellor cut his holiday short and returned to Berlin and President Clinton gave an interview to the BBC in which he gave the first real American response to the disaster.

Personally, 2005 will be a big year for me. I’ll know in a few months if I’ll be heading to grad school in September. If not, who know where I’ll be a year from now? I certainly don’t. But, I’ve decided to take it as it comes. The hopes, dreams and aspirations are all there. I know that wherever I end up, I’ll make the best of it. We shall see when we see. Que sera sera.

Every year I resolve to floss more. I’ve resolved that again this year. Maybe I’ll actually do it this year. In fact, I’ve made it a point to put floss on my desk, right next to my computer, in the hopes that this will remind me to do it. My other resolution is one that I know I will keep: become a better cook. Today is the first time since I started making bread a few months ago that I did it all more or less by eye–and accurately. I used just enough flour and didn’t have to add any more for the amount of water I had. The sweet sense of simple accomplishment.

As I was listening to music while eating breakfast this morning (while making the bread, in fact), I was inspired to another resolution based on a Mary Chapin Carpenter song called ‘The Long Way Home’. It’s a song about seemingly successful people getting where they thought they wanted to go and then realising that there was something missing in their lives. The last verse, though, offers an alternative:

Accidents and inspiration lead you to your destination

Or you could be the one who takes the long way home

Roll down your window, turn off your phone

See your life as a gift from the great unknown

And your task is to receive it

Tell your kid a story, hold your lover tight

Make a joyful noise, swim naked at night

Read a poem a day, call in well sometimes and

Laugh when they believe it

Funny now how it all goes by so fast

One day I’m looking over my shoulder at the past

Now everybody’s got to go, got to be, got to get somewhere

Baby don’t forget about

You really shouldn’t forget about

Baby don’t forget what got you there

I was voted ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ by my high school class, along with the girl who was our valedictorian. I’ve always felt very strange about that. What kind of success are we talking about here? Fabulous wealth and celebrity? Okay. None of us would mind that. But what about more simple success? What about just being happy where we are in the world? The past years in Montréal have been the first time that I’ve been able to say that I was truly happy with where I was in the world.

My one personal wish for 2005 is that I’ll be able to say the same a year from now, wherever I might be as 2006 begins.

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