It is the structures of life that seek to divide us, but it is our common humanity that brings us together in our times of need. Only the most hard-hearted person can look upon the sufferings of others without shedding a tear or lifting a helping hand.
We joined some of our friends on New Year’s Eve. It was a time of good friendship, games, a lot of fun and oh yea, we enjoyed some libations. In midst of our merriment, all of us made it to midnight; in fact, we didn’t go home until around 2 a.m. ending the night with a rousing version of Auld Lang Sign (we had to look up the lyrics on our phones). It was truly an enjoyable evening, and since my wife and I are now living in a different State, it was probably one of the last such gatherings in that area. Aud Lang Sign brought tears our eyes. Even so, the enjoyment of the evening outweighed the finality of that occasion. It was a good night and a good welcome to the New Year.
What is it that makes us want to celebrate a new year? Why do millions of people from New York to Las Angles and thousands of friends join each other in their homes to usher in the New Year? Well, one reason may be that it is a time for frivolity and partying. From the looks of the scenes on TV, people gathering in city centers were having…. well …. fun. There were all types of people and all of them seemed to have one thing in common. They were not there to confront each other because of political ideology; they did not gather to cast judgment on differing lifestyles and sexuality; they did not come as evangelical purveyors of apocalyptic ruin. Rather, they were there to enjoy themselves while they bid farewell to the past and welcomed what is to come.
What did they say goodbye to? They put behind them a fractured world. They put behind them the tendency to politicize everything. They put behind them a time of religious bigotry and dogmatic polarization, which creates a treacherous model of how to be with one another, a model that has brought the world to the brink of destruction where enemies are defined merely by looks, thoughts or location. Failure to conform in this world is met with damnation. They put behind them the fear of a disease that is difficult to control and over which they sometimes seem powerless. They put behind them loss not only from the destructive power of the disease, but from all the natural disasters that have taken away the dreams of many while stripping others of their homes. livelihoods, and sometimes their lives. We grieve all of this tragedy, yet on this night, the eve of a new year, we put all of this behind us and in the spirit of unanimity, refuse to give in to the negativity of the past and join hands in merriment over what the new year may bring.
Being human is to understand how to share our love with others that they may know how to love, and in this, humanity is changed.
How is it that we can do that? How is it that people can at least for the moment put all this negativity behind them? They do so because at the heart of humanity is not the depravity that some would have us believe. No, at the heart of humanity, that which sews the seeds of greatness in the cultures of being human, is hope. That which makes the new year so energizing, so exciting, and such a time of celebration is the hope it brings. Where does it come from? It does not come from experience. Year after year we meet, we celebrate, yet often at year’s end we are happy to see it go. What is the hope that keeps us going?
It is the structures of life that seek to divide us, but it is our common humanity that brings us together in our times of need. Only the most hard-hearted person can look upon the sufferings of others without shedding a tear or lifting a helping hand. Only those who work at hiding their humanity can ostracize the poor simply because they are poor, turn a deaf ear to the cries of those who suffer, and refuse sanctuary to those who are in need. There are many who work hard to create such a hard-hearted persona, but in so doing, they work at denying themselves; they are denying who they truly are as a human being. That which makes us human is not our hard-heartedness, but our ability to give of ourselves to others that goodness, even in the face of difficult tragedies, might prevail. At our core as human beings is the powerful drive to love and be loved by others. We yearn for this; we strive for it; we join with others in the hope that it will be our experience, a gift that we then seek to share with others: our children, our family members, our friends, our neighbors and even with strangers. Because our center is ultimately one of love, we are gifted with the power of empathy, the ability to put ourselves into the world of others that we might understand how to best touch their lives. Being human is to understand how to share our love with others that they may know how to love, and in this, humanity is transformed. Because the soul of being human is love, we have a tremendous power to transform our world into one of accommodation that welcomes our neighbor and those whom we encounter during our life’s journey.
It is this that we celebrate on the eve of a new year. Therefore, the new year is one of promise. If only we could learn to embrace our common humanity, then we might find happiness, we might discover the power of celebration, and we will know the power of embracing those whom we meet. So, we party to celebrate our common humanity, and in this, we find hope and we have fun.