Year End Blues and Hopes

By Loretta Wrobel

As December rolls around, I am struck by the sadness I feel because the days end so quickly. I barely turn around and night has descended, the lights are on and there went another day. I am a creature of the light and when the light diminishes, I start to feel myself diminishing. I find myself holding my breath until Winter Solstice arrives with the promise of longer days. This gives me such joy that each year I can be seen jumping with pleasure on December 21, the first day of winter. Bliss, because I have survived another dark cycle. 

The other reality is that this time of year begs me to address how the past year has influenced me and what the new year holds for our human race. I know I have been dragging as the year progressed with ongoing reports of war and endless violence. The concept of peaceful resolution seems to be out of our reality in 2023. Will 2024 be different? The concept of peaceful dialogue has vanished as a strategy for resolving conflicts. 

I do not dwell and labor over the many bombings and incessant violence that appear to have overtaken our planet. Conflict spreads as rapidly as the COVID virus, and can be found everywhere. It is so easy to become numb and overwhelmed by the latest news from anywhere in the Middle East, Ukraine, or in any state in our Country.  It feels that conflict in all continents around the globe are constantly escalating. 

Imagine my surprise when I came upon pearls of wisdom right when I craved them.  I was reading the book, On Time and Water, by Andri Snaer Magnason, and read a chapter detailing his visit with the Dali Lama in 2010. A dear friend gave me the book to read, as it discusses climate change and the drastic changes happening in Iceland. The writer is Icelandic and the book has a variety of messages. He talks about his grandparents and their relationship to the then numerous glaciers in Iceland. He learns from their stories and he writes about all the high-speed changes that have occurred within the last half century.

He meets the Dalai Lama, is entranced, and secures an invitation to meet the Dalai Lama again at Dharamsala in India. The report of the Dali Lama’s message is so uplifting and hopeful, it flabbergasted me. It was the intensely profound message I was seeking. I was shocked and pleased to find this enthralling answer that led me to a greater understanding as to what was weighing me down in our present world.  

The Dali Lama spoke about the reality that without peaceful dialogue, no issues can be solved. When force is implemented, there is a winner and a loser. Under that scenario there can be no permanent or even longstanding solution to any conflict.  Can we as humans begin solving the ubiquitous conflicts not by escalation of force but by constructive dialogue? This wise, holy man shared that the twentieth century was characterized not by engaging in negotiations, but by using greater violence. He expressed his belief that this twenty-first century will focus more on emotions and teaching warm-heartedness.  

As we become aware and expand our compassion, we are better prepared to listen and work on/out mutual solutions. The Dala Lama explained, “Ethics and compassion must be taught on a secular basis, otherwise it will cause problems in multireligious, multicultural communities.” He adds, “Secular doesn’t mean disrespect for religion, but rather respect for all religions.”  

A simple truth and so very difficult to practice in our world of such diversity and disparity among the innumerable groups, countries, races, and religions on our planet today!

This wise soul went on to elucidate the critical fact that we need to build real trust that comes from an abundance of compassion and respect. Trust is not generated with economic power or weapons. It is based on openness, vulnerability, and honesty. All of these come from warmheartedness. We need to educate ourselves and each other to graduate from the old-fashioned method of solving issues with guns, bombs, and power over. With an abundance of love, forgiveness, and forbearance, we can collectively tackle our conflicts without destroying each other.

This approach is easy to talk about and so very complicated to achieve, since we are creatures of habits and patterns. The old ways are hard to let go of. When we view history, we totally understand that these ways are always a failure. In looking back at the two World Wars, 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, we acknowledge how tragic it was with lives lost and devastation in several countries.  Such catastrophic destruction in such a short period of time. We should have learned our lessons.

It is never too late to start a new path and a new approach to viewing the issues/conflicts confronting us today. Continuing to seek materiality is a fool’s journey; it is unquenchable. The more we acquire, the more we are driven to strive for more. The enlightened vision is to strive towards better mental health, meaningful connection and nurturing ourselves. This we can continue to develop without negative impacts. When the central point is to move on a roadway that we can control, we stand a reasonable chance of reaching the goal. All of us can commit to attaining the goal of enhancing our friendships, improving our health, and making sure not to shortchange ourselves. If we can make that commitment to ourselves, we improve dramatically. And it doesn’t stop there, because we will positively influence all of the people we encounter and lessen the huge amount of negatively and hostility in our world. 

I now have found a new year’s resolution for myself in our new year of 2024. What about you? Are you ready to take the plunge and let go of the unsuccessful and destructive ancient methods? You decide!

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