Now that many are breathing a sigh of relief that 2020 is finally over, I stop to ponder time. Measuring time, although most forms of life do it in some way, is a human organizing principle. Calendars were originally religio-agricultural devices. In order to keep the crops on their seasonal cycles, the gods were invoked—there was nothing secular about their world. It’s not known who invented holidays or even the concept of a new year, but it is clear that it was a fairly early idea. Different cultures today still celebrate New Year’s Day at differing times of the year. Having it a week after Christmas helps to make this a holiday season, but it is no guarantee that a sharp break in continuity will come after a bad year.
Lots of bad stuff happened in 2020, but clearly the circumstance that made it a “bad year” was the Covid-19 pandemic. Here in the United States it became a full-blown crisis because of the cause of four years of ethical famine, Donald Trump. Those who can see beyond their religio-politics know that he is a man who spent his entire career looking out for nobody but himself. Such people do not work as public servants and are downright terrible in a crisis. The pandemic quickly grew into a crisis and we spent nearly ten full months out of twelve isolating ourselves. The other crises of the year (generally pointing fingers at Washington), such as the important resurgence of Black Lives Matter and the California wildfires, were exacerbated by the pandemic about which our government did nothing. Lack of interest has led to death numbers that have become a Stalinistic statistic.
As much as we like to think nature bends to human plans—our calendars—we have no idea what 2021 might hold. We’re left with a country that has been neglected for four years. Our Republican-controlled senate can’t even agree to provide any kind of relief to average people without adding riders and conditions to make our situation even worse. Still, I’m optimistic. New Year’s, whenever it is, marks change. I’ve been noticing for over a week now that the sun is rising earlier than it had been as we descended into December. The light is beginning to return. While we can expect nothing good from the White House for twenty more days, we can look beyond that and know that change is on the way. The division of time may be an artificial construct, but it can, if we allow it, become a sign of hope.