Look back, look forth, look close, there may be more prosperous times, more intelligent times, more spiritual times, more magical times, and more happy times, but this one, this small moment in the history of the universe, this is ours.
And let’s do everything with it. Everything.
– Jean Paul Sartre in a letter to Simone de Beauvoir
As we approach the end of the year, I feel it bearing down on me that 2022 will soon be gone. Whatever I wished to get done and didn’t will still be hanging there. But it will be 2023, and 2022 will be gone, never to be lived again, alive only in memory. One more year of my life will be in the past.
Often at year’s end I hear a lot of “goodbye and good riddance” about the year that’s ending. It seems that there’s always a lot of grousing about what a bad year it was. I can’t do that. Maybe 2022 hasn’t been the greatest year. I don’t know. But I feel fondly toward this year as it comes to a close. To me, 2022 was the year we got our mobility back.
During the first news reports about Covid, I heard experts on epidemiology say that a worldwide pandemic, such as the flu epidemic of 1918, has a life cycle of three years. The idea that Covid could be around for so long was inconceivable to me then.
But it came true. The thing has hung around a long time, and is still not gone. But I see 2022 as the year we finally freed ourselves from its tyranny. That is something really worth celebrating.
So quickly we begin to take our good fortune for granted, but if I recall March of 2020, I cannot take lightly the fact that we have regained our mobility. Our civilization is no longer in bondage to this viral storm. Such things don’t happen overnight. I don’t know exactly when we crossed the threshold, but by looking back, we can see how far we have come.
Although 2022 started roughly, with a resurgence of Covid via the Omicron variant, it was ultimately the year the barriers came down. The CDC stopped pre-departure mandatory testing for flights into the US, so people traveling overseas didn’t have to fear being unable to return home. Given time, the vaccinations proved to be highly effective. The number of new cases went into a steady downward trend, so most countries reached the point where they could safely drop entry requirements such as proof of vaccination, Covid test results, and so on.
Once the fences were down and it appeared to be safe, people were free to travel. And they did, with a vengeance. People crowded into airports, determined to make up for lost time. I’ve heard people talk about pent-up demand for years, but never was the expression so literally true as now.
This resurgence in travel also means that the global travel industry, including many people who live just to show someone else a great time in their country, are now able to go back to work.
I found plenty to complain about during the year. But my complaints are infinitesimal next to the great privilege of having had that year to live, and to have emerged from lockdown and be able to travel again. Hallelujah!
It’s been a unique moment in time, I wish that I could keep that perspective at all times. But I get carried away by petty troubles, get my face down into the weeds and sometimes miss the great vistas. That’s why I believe travel is essential for the welfare of us as individuals, and as a species. It helps create a sense of perspective.
I recently had the pleasure of traveling in the fjords of Chilean Patagonia. When I left home, I had been plenty hung up on my personal day-to-day problems. But when I saw the beauty of the massive glaciers, the towering mountain peaks draped in snow and crowned with halos of water vapor glowing in the sunshine, it blew away my petty problems, and sent me into a realm of joy, just to be living and seeing one of the great beauties of nature.
I believe wholeheartedly that travel is good for the world, and good for the destiny of humanity. During the lockdown period, there was a spike in mental health issues across the country, not surprisingly. Being penned in, restricted in movement, is bad for mental health, bad for the spirit.
Now that people can travel freely again, we are seeing what amounts to a mass migration from everywhere to everywhere. Masses of people have decided that now is the time to travel. The experience of Covid has accentuated the appreciation for the preciousness and fragility of life, and with that goes a sense that there is no time to waste. If you want to do something, you’d better go ahead. People are going forth as on a quest, fulfilling things they have always wanted to do but have put off. Now there is a greater sense that such things should not be put off. Life is short.
Yes, there will always be problems. But if you are putting off living fully until they all go away, you will be waiting a long time. This is our time, and I am so grateful to be alive.
That reminds me of a quote I love from Albert Einstein.
The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.
I like that he frames it as a decision, whether to believe that the universe is friendly or hostile. Which one you believe will make a huge difference in how you feel about life. By calling it a decision, Einstein implied that the question is ultimately beyond the reach of human understanding. But as one who had studied atomic particles, and seen that human observation affects what is being observed even on an atomic level, he seemed to have come to the conclusion that belief is itself a force.
It’s shown to be true in all sorts of settings, scientific and anecdotal, that what you believe tends to manifest for you. If you expect the worst, you’re not likely to get the best. Just try getting up in the morning and deciding you’re going to have a terrible horrible no good very bad day, and you’ll find out. You just might get your wish.
So I choose to look lovingly upon 2022, and to bid it a fond farewell. I’ve had my cranky moments, but I know that 2022 was a precious year of my life, never to return. It will always live in memory, and I will look back fondly on many parts of it.
Much good comes from challenges and struggles. Hard times produce some of our most precious moments. It’s only in the face of troubles that human beings can achieve their most heroic acts, or experience their most profound emotions. As with any disaster, much good has come from the Covid pandemic. It may take awhile to be able to see it. But it’s there.
Think of it. People are able to get together again! People who have not seen each other for a long time are reuniting. Conferences, events and performances are happening. Who would have imagined that it could be so special just to be able to meet in person?
So I will not say goodbye and good riddance. Instead I bid a fond farewell to a precious part of my life. Goodbye 2022, and thank you!
And welcome 2023. Happy New Year! I have a feeling it’s going to be good.
Your humble reporter,