We do not know much of the future but this is what we know now: it is December and the start of summer. Expectedly, the days will become longer and sunsets occur late in the night; the night sky will increasingly become clear and starry bodies will offer some light for all types of human, animal and plant activity.
One or more of these factors should be able to give us a reason to rejoice for this period of the year, or better still, to believe that things can really get better. And as this year keeps receding while we enjoy the beneficence of seasonal delights, circumstance will serve to remind us of its power to unite and connect us. Perhaps then we may finally acknowledge that God always blesses our individual lives with moments of rest, solace and celebration between the suffering, loss, despair and grief that may visit us.
Right now, we must have the candour to admit that this year has been an annus horribilis for us as a nation. If we make that admission, we may finally lay down the weight of 2021, experience a collective catharsis, and then ready ourselves to regain our stride in the looming new year. If we can honestly reckon with these, with gratitude, we will accept that since we have survived thus far, we are bound to participate in the later occasions of triumph, joy and celebration.
In this, we cannot avoid recalling the ancient Roman poem, ‘The Aeneid’, written by Virgil (70BC - 19BC), in which shipwrecked sailors are encouraged to anticipate that in their misfortune and suffering, as survivors, their characters will be built, their personal lives will be enriched by the experience and ‘it will please us one day to remember these things.’ This epic poem, whose author had directed that it be burnt at his death, was wisely saved for posterity by Emperor Augustus (63BC - AD14), an inaugural Roman monarch. It was as if by defying a gifted artist, the temporal ruler had the supernatural prediction that for over 2,000 years thereafter, the poem will comfort men, women and children of all stripes and everywhere, and inspire them to spit in the face of adversity even as they nursed optimism for the future. Indeed, it was as if by preserving the poem, imperial power and individual talent would merge in the timeless service of giving hope to all of humanity.
The abruptness and scale with which our nation’s usual steady life vanished or was remodelled to counteract the pandemic defies comprehension. Almost two years have gone by as of this writing, since following that counteraction, we had an end of the year familiar to us. By the time you read this, these past two years may feel like 20 years! Notwithstanding this, we ought to resist the temptation to brood over this or to exaggerate it. Instead we should show and express gratitude that even at a time such as this, we still have our daily lives. The wisdom of showing and expressing gratitude is that if we do it constantly, if we are thinking about how better off we are despite everything, we will always be roused from our elegiac state, and then we may find comfort and understanding in our circumstances.
At its own prompting, providence is sumptuous and generous to all of us. And nature, providence’s handmaiden, matches on inexorably. Summer does not slow its arrival simply because the world has had a difficult 2 years. Summer’s daybreaks will not be delayed to accommodate our tentative steps back to some variant of normalcy; and the season’s high temperatures will not plummet just because we need cool bodies as we saunter into the new year. In any event, the sun still provides us with light and heat; at night a full moon and twinkling stars still hang in the sky; and the world still maintains its coherence and grandeur. Time – the measure of our existence - also matches on, both quickly and slowly, in a pandemic or otherwise. But at a period such as this – it being December, summer and the end of the year – we can mysteriously slow time so that we can rest in the moment of feel-good and leisure, while we savour the essence of this period; and we can open our eyes to our joyous lives even as we close our eyes to the dislocation, sickness, despair and grief which we lived with for most of the year. With time, the burden of the pandemic – the burden that I suggest we put down now - will become easier to carry in our hearts and minds. We must be honest to acknowledge that ill-health, loss, distress and grief are not just for those who face misfortune. They are both a matter of our mortality as well as a measure of our humanity. They will abide with us for as long as we are live humans and we need to strive to move beyond them in order to regain our lives and face a future worth working towards every day.
We started the year not knowing if we would get this far with it. We end it not knowing what the future holds for us. But, by getting this far, time has been on our side, hope has given us strength not to be flattened by the crush of a relentless pandemic, and gratitude has lessened the load of living through a disrupted world. These three, collectively have taken us to the figurative finishing line of another December and the resumption of another season of summer. Candour requires that we acknowledge all these things. Happy holidays!
*Radipati is a regular Mmegi contributor