Out of the darkness, into the light

It's such a paradox that the darkest day of the year -- the winter Solstice, the first true day of winter -- is so celebrated around the world, since this is truly the shortest day of the year. Yet that celebration hails the realityour days will only get lighter from here.

In much the same way, Chanukah -- the Jewish celebration of light -- occurs as the mis waning to nothingness in the darkest month, the darkest time of the year. And so the eight day celebration, which is really about rededication, is when we light the eight-candle menorah to commemorate the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the Second Century BCE following its desecration by the Greek - Syrians. As we add candles each night, the new moon approaches at the midpoint of the waxing wax candles.

There is no doubt for me that there is a magical beauty in darkness nd that our senses may become more fully come alive in the dark, quelling our thinking brains. We can be deceived by what we see and blinded by too much light. Hearts may be enlivened by utter darkness. I trust in that visceral wisdom.

This year's celebrations to dispel darkness come at a particularly bleak seeming time. I, for one, had hoped for more vision in 2020 to address what had already seemed like sorry times. And then the pandemic took control.

Overall, we've experienced a year of seemingly unfathomable darkness, with over 1.5 million deaths around the world, hospitals overwhelmed, economies shattered, and the number of cases soaring.

Consider the fact that the 2016 election essentially deep-sixed any progress (after decades of stalling) toward a global response to slow climate change. Thanks to the Electoral College victory by Trump nd his supporters, it meant a victory for outright denial of human-caused warming of the planet. Despite virtual unanimity among legitimate climate scientists, regardless of clear evidence that accelerating climate disruption has led to species extinction as well as the retreat of polar ice caps and permafrost. And despite the horrific level of wildfire activity in Australia, California and the Pacific Northwest and elevated hurricane, tornado and flooding catastrophes, the United States has stonewalled the 2015 Paris global climate accord, and in its place created a four-year standstill in dealing with this existential crisis.

In the name of making America "great again," we've also witnessed an almost demonic rise in the level of cynicism and societal breakdown as political polarization has pitted family members, neighbors and long-time friendships against one another and attacks against Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Asians, women, Jews and the media, have escalated. Even public officials have been threatened with attacks. And despite historically high voter turnout levels in November, the unprecedented refusal by the White House to recognize the will of those voters has added to the barrage of threats Americans have seen to democratic norms over the past four years.

Failure to respond to the novel coronavirus over the past year -- in fact, an outright refusal to follow the advice of public health leaders has made this country the global leader in COVID deaths, now approaching 190,000, with well over now 100,000 being hospitalized.

Though it seems like the Dark Ages are upon us, brigher days truly are ahead, with vaccines becoming available and a new president due to be sworn in next month to try to turn around the economy and this pandemic. The lights we kindle suggest there might be promise ahead: truly, they might show us way to restore hope that we might actually be able to deal intelligently with our overwhelming problems ... as well as humanely with one another.


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