New Years Day

May the flame we now kindle illuminate a way into the future
A way of love
A way of connection
A way of courage
May we have trust enough in life to face its woes
To plant seeds of love
And to harvest justice


Readings

by Martha Nussbaum

To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it's based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from that fragility.

by Denise Levertov

For the New Year, 1981

I have a small grain of hope–
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.

I need more.

I break off a fragment
to send you.

Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won't shrink.

Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.

Only so, by division,
will hope increase,

like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source–
clumsy and earth-covered–
of grace.


Message, by Andy Pakula

Welcome to 2017

The earth has completed another revolution around the Sun.

Much has happened in the past year. Babies have been born and others have died. There has been love found and love lost. People have treated one another with great kindness and with terrible cruelty. 

We are now 11 hours and ___ minutes into this new year - 2017. 

Of course, not very much has actually changed with the new year besides the date in our diaries. The one change we know we do need to make is to stop automatically writing 2016 on every document that needs a date.

But the fact that the year is now 2017 rather than 2016 still feels momentous. It feels worth marking in some way. 

The passage of time is something we too easily ignore. The big markers like the transition between years are important. They give us opportunities to look back and take stock. They are times when we can thoughtfully look forward to consider how we want the future to be different from the past.

It is worth looking back too. Yes, there was plenty in 2016 that we might wish had gone differently. We may feel like just looking forward and turning our backs on a bad year. But there was also a lot of good in the year too.

If you think back on your own life, you will undoubtedly start to remember some of your own good moments of 2016. Some of you found jobs. Some of you fell in love. Some of you had babies. Some of you came here for the first time. Some of you made new friends. Some of you learned new skills. Some of you recovered from illnesses. Some of you found ways to help others. 

And throughout these positive experiences, there were people who made a difference - people that brightened your life. If you want do something wonderful, make a list of the names you can think of and send some thank-yous. It doesn’t matter how - paper, email, text, Facebook. It will not only brighten the lives of people who matter to you, it will remind you of the essential, sustaining, connections of your own life. 

So, we bid farewell to 2016 with all the good and all the bad it brought and we have crossed the threshold into 2017.

What does the coming of a new year mean to you?

It might make you feel old. 2017 is the 61st year in which I’ve been alive. It may seem a lot to some of you and rather few to others. It’s certainly a lot more than the age I feel inside.
The beginning of a new year may feel like a fresh start. It can be. The story of this year has yet to be written. Perhaps you are determined to start 2017 without some of the afflictions of your past. Maybe you leave behind a way of being that was holding you back. And perhaps 2017 will be the beginning of new opportunities and new ways for you. This is the stuff of New Year's resolutions, of course. Those resolutions don’t have to fail, by the way. Make them realistic, tell some friends and invite them to help you. You may not succeed, but you certainly won’t if you don’t try.  

And maybe you enter 2017 with some fear or foreboding, as I do. Every single year brings both joy and sorrow. This new year, though, feels to me more troubling than most. 
No matter what we hope for, resolve, or fear, the future remains unknown.

We are standing at the edge of mystery. The known past stretches behind us and the unknown future - murky, uncertain, promising delight and disappointment, beckons ahead. The next 364 days will surprise us. We can predict with almost 100% certainty that 2017 will be neither entirely happy or entirely sad. 

It is also true that the kind of 2017 you have will depend very much on your choices. You can choose to adventure or to stay home. You can choose to focus on sorrows and problems and you can choose to focus on joys and opportunities. You can choose to connect with others and you can choose to isolate yourself. You can choose whether to emphasise your weakness and you can choose to live into your power.

It matters how we choose to go forward. We are not passive travellers. Our actions can make a difference - sometimes a very big difference. 

This new year, perhaps more than ever, our choices matter

2016 has brought worrisome news across Europe and the United States. We have watched as governments have veered to the right, as racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other kinds of hate have been encouraged. We’ve seen dangerous people placed in positions of great power. We have seen a year that is outside the normal political swings. 

Now, more than ever, the uncertain new year ahead seems fraught with danger. It bears threats for all of us, but especially for immigrants, for the poor, for the disabled, for anyone whose skin is not white and for LGBT people. We cannot know what will come, but just as our actions will affect the shape of 2017 for ourselves, so too are our efforts needed to shape 2017 for the rest of our human family. 

As I look forward toward this future and the challenges it will likely bring, I find myself wanting a plan - a strategy that is sure to work. I find myself wanting something to hold onto - a truth that will mean that compassion will prevail over cruelty.

And I remember that there are no sure things - there is no certainty even that doing the right thing will make a difference. 

I am tempted to bury my head in the sand - tempted to reassure myself against all indications “it will all turn out OK” and then go about my own business as though nothing has changed.
But if I do that - if we do that, we are giving up on hope. We are giving up on the possibility that that we together can change the world.

Although I don’t believe in a supernatural ‘sure thing’ to save the day, I have to choose how I will live. I have to choose whether to hope or not. I have to choose whether to trust people or not. I have to choose whether to believe in the power of love or not.

There are plenty of good reasons not to hope or trust or love. We can be hurt if we dare to be so open.

Martha Nussbaum tells us that being a “good human being” calls upon us to have an “openness to the world.” Living the good life is living with, as Nussbaum says, “a willingness to be exposed.”

And so, we must choose how we will live: closed or open. Guarded or exposed.

Our lives are far richer for living openly.  

And the future of our society depends on people who don’t play it safe - people willing to expose themselves to what may come.

It is hard to do alone, but we are not alone. We are together and we are interconnected. Amongst us, the grains of hope we hold are shared and divided and grow great and strong. And together, we are capable of great things we could never do alone.

In this new year

Prepare to be challenged

Prepare to be enriched

Prepare to be changed

Open yourself to what comes

Engage the New Year with trust.

Engage the New Year with hope

Engage the New Year with love

May it be so

It takes profound trust to face this turbulent life with arms open, prepared to embrace all that comes our way
May you have such trust
May you be filled with hope
May you be held in safety
May you be surrounded by love
May you have a happy and healthy new year