2021 Best Wishes from the Light House
Dear Friends, Dear Readers,
I have taken three deep breaths before wishing you anything for 2021. This happy new year just isn’t as simple and automatic as those of recent times. Some have called for “death to 2020”. Others are gearing up for a return to business as usual, marketed as a “new normal”.
Let us take a more encompassing view of what to wish for the year to come. More than a wish, let us make manifest what we have so far only imagined, or vaguely hoped. Let us commit to this endeavor, for at that very moment of total commitment (as recommends Goethe) the entire universe will conspire to assist us.
Recall that before Covid19 entered the scene, our civilization was running out of time to reverse its course toward destruction. Over the past thirty years, there has been a general scientific consensus about the required conditions for sustainability. Many voices have cried out in the wilderness, alerting us that we are collectively condemning our grandchildren to a grim fate.
Now, in 2021, the biggest news seems to be a vaccine (an injection of genetic instructions to be more precise) with the intent of saving as many lives as possible.
Supposing we save those lives, will we continue our well-trodden path toward destruction, speeding down the highway with no driver behind the wheel? If so, might we ask ourselves what was the point? What would be the point in sacrificing so much freedom and economic livelihood if we subsequently doom ourselves to greater losses as a result of our mindless collective madness?
The survival of the oldest generation need not be pitted against the youngest, but it would be immoral by any standards to ignore the fate of the latter, along with the thousands of other species that have paid the price of progress with their extinction. Millions have been persuaded almost overnight that they are saving lives by wearing a mask. In contrast, over the past thirty years, how few have committed to changing their daily habits to preserve our vital, natural resources?
Most likely, the reasoning behind this collective failure is a tacit belief that little things don’t really make any difference (except when it comes to Covid). The systemic ecological crisis has always seemed simply too big a problem to solve, and no consensus has yet arisen as to how to engage such a complex overhaul of our civilization. Every necessary choice has always been bargained away because of economic imperatives.
Here, then, is my wish for 2021: that each of us who adorned a mask to save an elderly or infirm person from Covid19 also permanently adopt at least one other new habit to restore the earth and our humanity, for the sake of your own grandchildren (or someone else’s). There are plenty of such habits from which to choose. Just ask Google.
Will that be enough? In itself, not at all. But one change can lead to the other, ultimately producing a great shift, the effects of which we cannot predict. Was it not already astonishing to see how a sudden halt to normal human activity measurably and visibly made our air and water so much cleaner?
This is our enduring hope: that even where the greatest danger looms, so also flickers the light of our saving power.*
*Transposed from Friedrich Hölderlin.
Finally, to my new year’s wish, I’d like to add a perspective from the Light House, set on the flanks of a hill overlooking a stream. The Light House is a place I have imagined and wish to make manifest for you. More than a wish, I have made the Light House my mission. It is how I will endeavor to usher in a brighter future starting this new year.
What is the Light House? Rest assured, it will be a real place with a real house, to which you will be invited. For the housewarming, there will be champagne blanc de blancs from the house of Ruinart, or if you prefer Gyoturo tea in an earthen bowl. A small house it will be, yet with great potential for happiness and healing. If you can’t make the trip, it will come to you wherever you may live. More significant than an actual place, the Light House suggests an art de vivre that you can joyfully adopt without compromising the well-being of future generations. Is this not an intriguing subject that merits an entire book?
You have my commitment: I shall write this book just as surely as I will build the house. You now conspire with the entire universe to bring these things to pass, and will not regret it.
As you stand one day upon the Light House terrace bridging out over the void, you will behold upon the distant horizon a more beautiful world within our reach.