An interesting thing happened in 1888. A man of some note had the opportunity to read his own obituary. His brother had died, but the newspaper mistakenly identified the death of the wrong brother. As he read the obituary, he was aghast that he was being referred to as the “dynamite king.” This happened to Alfred Nobel who was identified as someone who got very rich from the manufacturing of a weapon of mass destruction. That definition was hurtful to him because when he invented dynamite, he thought it was going to be used as an instrument of peace and that no one would want to use such deadly power as a means of injuring others. Yet, nothing in his obituary talked of his many efforts to break down barriers that separated people from one another…it only spoke about him as a merchant of death. And so he made a resolution, codified in his last will and testament, that he would set aside huge funds that resulted in the Nobel Peace Prize to be given to those who have accomplished the most for world peace. This is the week (December 10, 2017) that the most recent Nobel Peace Prize was awarded…to an international group seeking the elimination of nuclear weapons.
So what does that have to do with real life as we are closing out an old year and entering a new year? Early January always feels like a fresh start. The Christmas whirlwind has settled down. We still have a fighting chance to keep our resolutions for the New Year. Cartoons always depict the New Year as a baby, full of possibilities and innocence. We hope that with a new year we can leave the baggage behind us, stretching toward a brighter future.
But at the same time, we cannot help but see the darkness in society and politics - the bickering between the political parties that leads to cynicism; the opioid crisis; terrorism and the genocides in Myanmar and Yemen; the desire for sexual gratification teaming up with celebrity and government arrogance to produce our current wave of sexual abuse, as a few examples.
So what will this coming year (2018) hold for us? Will it be the year that we get our act together? Will it be the year that the politicians clean up the corruption? Will it be the year that science finds a breakthrough for cancer or any of the other diseases that threaten us? We don't know what this year holds for us. Likely, we will experience grace and love along with the pain and frustration. We will see the darkness in its full fury. We will also see shafts of light that burst through the darkness. I hope we can hold on to those shafts of light this year with courage, because we know that as light shines in the darkness, and each of us shares grace and healing in our darkened world, the light of hope and change will follow. Happy New Year!