2011 is upon us. We all know, of course, that if we were observing the earth from space we wouldn’t see our planet passing a signpost, we wouldn’t see a light come on although we might hear strains of Should auld acquaintance be forgot . . . wafting up through the ether. 365-day years, 24-hour days, 60- minute hours and 60-second minutes mean nothing anywhere except on earth. But—you may well protest—we don’t ever live anywhere except on the earth, so what’s your point?
David Suzuki has said that the most useful view of our home as humans is from space (we’ve all seen the photos) and understanding that that blue planet is the one and only human abode, shared by all of us. A hymn we used to sing goes: “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.” The preacher in Ecclesiastes 1:14 says: “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” What they have in common is the notion that our time living in this home we call earth is not long; what they don’t share is a grand philosophy of this short sojourn.
The best you and I can do is choose an “as if” that seems to fit and live according to its precepts. Evangelical Christianity, Islam and Jewry (to a less-specific degree) incorporate an afterlife of the soul, and so the guide to life may be that one lives “as if” another, better life follows death. Ecclesiastes obviously poses the possibility that death makes the striving of the living purposeless, and to follow the “all is vanity” line of thought would mean that one lives “as if” working, planning and setting goals were no more than futile gestures.
Let me propose a grand philosophy for 2011. Let’s live “as if” we had been assigned a ration of imagination, energy and hope so that we might beautify the home we share and the lives of the people in it. Let’s throw energy and imagination into preserving what is good: the natural world and its life-giving and sustaining abundance. Let’s contribute an addition-of-value to this home by cultivating the arts, by creating refreshing newness. Let’s imagine peace, and insist that war and strife soil our common home. Let’s abhor hoarding and sing the praises of sharing. Let’s visit each other, talk to each other, sing and dance together, uphold each other in pain and rejoice with each other in victory.
Let’s have the courage to shout down the detractors who live “as if” nothing matters except their personal hoard of wealth, fame or comfort. Let’s have the temerity to suggest that selling the stones out of our common foundation is stupid.
Above all, whether or not we look forward to a blissful eternity or not, let’s not forget that in the grand philosophy the “as if” we choose for 2011 is significant beyond imagining.
I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.