Over the hundreds of millions of years that Earth has hosted life, there has been evolution, adaptation and change. Life migrated out of its watery inhabitance to take up residence on land. Fins became legs. Some legs were lost over time in favour of slithering, while other legs morphed into wings to enable flight. Methods of reproduction and child rearing evolved. Some creatures developed hard protective coverings on the outside where others developed bony structures internally for support and locomotion. Regardless of the adaptation, these changes occur in response to the surroundings. External pressures select traits and processes which provide the best chance of survival and continued existence.
We’ve heard some of this through the course of this virus. There have been adaptations and mutations. Omicron, the most recent variant, is less virulent but more transmissible – it spreads like wildfire but predominately has far less serious symptoms than previous variants. It is not in the best interest of any living being to kill its host – its source of life or means for proliferation.
As we move into this new calendar year it gives us a notable point in time for reflection. What has the past year brought us? What has it taught us? Have we adapted to the rigors of our environment? How have we adapted? Are these changes for the best? Do they help us thrive? Do they help our community prosper? Should our focus turn as we move into this new year?
In previous years, I would watch the sports highlights of the year, or listen to a countdown of the year’s top songs. This year, however, I started my year reflecting on the people who have left us. We’ve been surrounded by the talk of death a lot more this year – many of these people weren’t named in the news cycle, while some were more socially prominent. As I took time to jot down, what I felt were a few wise words, spoken by four “famous” people, it left me thinking about all the wisdom of those people who don’t pop up on our newsfeed when they die. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could access some of that wisdom of so many more that hasn’t been written down and saved in the archives – from different perspectives and through different struggles, born from different lives and experiences. So before I share a few of the words of others, my reflection going into this new year is:
“As we aim to thrive in our journey forward: to adapt and evolve; to keep the good and discard the detrimental, take time to listen. Listen to the observations and perspectives of others. Heed their warnings. Acknowledge their struggles as much as you revel in their victories. “Famous” or not, share their wisdoms, so that others can learn from them too.”
This list may not contain the most profound of quotes – ya know, the ones that sit ya on your ass and make you go “Holy Shitake!”. I do feel, however, that the two quotes chosen for each person exemplify the character of the person being remembered. Characters and characteristics that, if embraced, will make us, and the world we inhabit an even more amazing place.
Hank Aaron (February 5, 1934 – January 22, 2021)
American professional baseball player.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest major league baseball players in history. 45 years after his retirement he still holds many batting records, explaining his nickname, “Hammerin’ Hank”.
“Consistency is what counts; you have to be able to do it over and over again.”
“My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling bad or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.”
Betty White (January 17, 1922 – December 31, 2021) American actress and comedian.
One of the first women to exert control in front of and behind the camera and the first woman to produce a sitcom. Known as “The First Lady of Television”.
“I don’t know how people can get so anti- something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs and don’t worry about other people so much.”
“I just make it my business to get along with people so I can have fun. It’s that simple.”
Desmond Tutu (7 October 1931 – 26 December 2021)
South African Anglican bishop and theologian.
Known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist for which he received the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.
“A solitary human being is a contradiction in terms… we have to learn from other human beings how to be human.”
“Never before in history have human beings been called on to act collectively in defense of the Earth.”
Eddie Jaku (14 April 1920 – 12 October 2021)
A survivor of several German concentration camps during World War II. At 100 years old he published “The Happiest Man on Earth: the Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor” – his memoirs relaying his wartime experiences, and my favourite book this year!
“The best balm for the soul is friendship. And with that friendship, we could do the impossible.”
“Every breathe is a gift. Life is beautiful if you let it be. Happiness is in your hands.”
As we move into the new year, let’s not get lost in “the old norms”. Let’s not fall back into tendencies that we’ve said aren’t productive or are even counterproductive. Let’s learn from others: take consistent steps forward and be grateful for your surroundings, every day! Be playful, have fun and keep swinging!
If you’ve acquired any nuggets of wisdom from someone special, please feel free to post it in the comments. Please also include a brief background of the source – it gives the story more texture.