Barely into the new year, there's a lot of new talk. New hope for the Dems thanks to slightly optimistic employment data, and for Obama thanks to his new recess appointments ploy and new zingers at Repubs. New hope for a different non-Mitt Romney candidate almost every day in the primary race. It's just a different kind of newness from olden days.
New years of my childhood were ushered in by the big bell in the Randolph-Macon College chapel, its slow, deliberate gongs filling the frosty darkness of Virginia night. It was always a magical time. As if a collective exhale you could almost hear from quietly opened windows launched the silent town into some new sphere of limitless possibility. Somebody in the distance would usually send up a firecracker or two as a sort of punctuation mark.
Soon, welcoming the new year grew to involve balls dropping at Times Square, sentimental dances under revolving disco lights, merry-making with champagne toasts and confetti. Different celebrations... but still the newness of the New Year always brought promise, optimism, a sort of excited hopefulness.
New, this new year of the still-young century, has a broader context. A few long-unemployed friends are newly employed. My pilot son flies for a newly bankrupt airline (but is still employed.) The Republicans are loudly proclaiming new life begins at conception, making that zygote indeed a full-blown new person. Some of us actual persons, no longer very new, are discovering new aches in body parts heretofore unknown. Around the country there is wild enthusiasm for tossing out the old -- but as yet not many brilliant suggestions for something new to take its place. In general, while much of the old is disappointing, much of the new is bewildering.
But there is still that leftover promise of hope. Maybe less of the optimism, less conviction that peace on earth is really on its way, less faith in political and economic systems.......... but still hope. In some second-floor bedroom of a house in Ashland, Virginia last New Year's Eve, there may even have been a little girl at an open window, breathless with excitement, listening as the bell in the college chapel rang in a new year of absolutely limitless promise.
Causes Fran Johns Supports
Compassion & Choices of N.CA
San Francisco Interfaith Council