For Auld Lang Syne!

Odin's farewell to 2023, ruminations on the pandemicine, and a suggestion for the year ahead.

For Auld Lang Syne!

Well friends, this is it for 2023! It's been an absolutely packed end of the year for me, with more going on than I can even properly explain in these newsletters. But, suffice it to say, life is being lived to its fullest right now.

One of the greatest joys of the last month has been encounters with so many old friends, especially so many of whom were active members of my old acting school. We take pieces of the people we meet with us, carrying their essence as part of our identities through time and space. There's so much beauty in how the presence of someone in our lives can ripple out, through us, and spill over into lives and environments they've never personally encountered. And they carry us as well, bringing us into their homes, their families, their artistic endeavors.

It's been said that each man is an island unto himself, but I reject that as the most fundamental aspect of our humanity. Every action you take in your life has reverberations, like the plucking of a string. These reverberations carry on long after we have forgotten them, some for ill, some for good: always, uniquely our own. Little chords of our souls, humming through reality, touching other lives. If we come into this world, and leave this world, within the confines of our own skulls... we must remember that the "we" we are at the end is a collaborative effort, a shared project of creation inhabited by the intersection of every life we've ever touched or been touched by. And so it continues, down from our ancestors and on to our inheritors yet waiting to be born.

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Life in the pandemicine

I think about our responsibility toward one another quite a lot, as you can no-doubt tell from my above paragraphs. And, these days there are a lot of complexities when it comes to understanding (as the great philosopher Thomas Scanlon phrases) what we owe to each other. The outbreak of Covid-19 stressed our world in ways that will continue to have dramatic impacts for decades, maybe even centuries to come. And, we know enough about the dangers of climate change and political upheaval to understand that this will not be the last such epidemic to arrive.

A report presented by the Pandemic Mitigation Collaborative highlights the continuing danger of Covid-19 in our communities, and forecasts a surge following the New Year. I've seen colleagues come down with Covid, seen the impact as its "normalization" has added immense stress to the lives of people struggling to live beneath capitalism's stark banner. The lessons we could have learned from the pandemic have been brushed aside in favor of the bottom line of multinational businesses, and that's frustrating. At the same time, we are seeing reverberations, even if we're not seeing outright dramatic change.

As Yahoo News recently reported: "“By the end of 2024, executives will be forced to admit their RTO mandates did not improve productivity,” read the top-line prediction from Annie Dean, longtime flexible work evangelist and head of Team Anywhere at software firm Atlassian." The pandemic could have been a wake-up call that forced dramatic, sudden change... but at least the good that it offers hasn't been completely wasted. This is especially important considering that the pandemic continues to be a major driver of death and long-term health damage. We need to take every piece of good and run as far as we can.

Data shows that Covid-19 "was the underlying cause of death for more than 940,000 people in the United States, including over 1,300 deaths among children and young people aged 0–19 years. The researchers investigated this using data from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention databases for the period 1 August 2021 to 31 July 2022.”

Reports of Long Covid abound, reminding us of its power to upend lives. As reported in ABC news, a health researcher named Sarah who came down with Long Covid symptoms described its effect on her life in stark terms, as it drove a horrible wedge between herself and her husband.

"We're living two separate lives — it's like we're housemates, not really husband and wife," she says. "Long COVID has basically taken away my best friend and my soulmate. It's like somebody just ripped half of me away."

Of course, part of the danger here is also fear.

One of the biggest drivers behind the worst damages of the pandemic is that of right-wing political ideologies, however. These ideologies sow division, raise barriers between members of common communities, and exacerbate the worst impacts of all crises. History shows us this. As we can see from the situation in Switzerland at the beginning of the 20th century, it was only within the area controlled by a right-wing ideologue that another perfectly preventable illness was normalized. And these ideologies are built on fear. Isolate, discourage, separate, humiliate: these are the playbook entries that autocrats the world over have always used to cement their control.

Staying safe and healthy, maintaining trust within your communities... these are the qualities that need to be cultivated in the face of far-right fearmongering and the very real dangers of an ongoing health crisis. If we take care of ourselves and, at the same time, work to care for those around us, those who capitalize on driving wedges between us will be bereft of one of their most deadly tools.

As always, I don't bring up the pandemic to scare or alarm: there's enough of that out there already. But, I do want to inform and to remind you that it's our responsibility as social creatures to care for one another, and, by doing so, invite care in return.

Life in the year ahead

I want to consider community carefully as I go forward into the new year. My community will be changing in a number of ways, and I'm excited by the possibilities that wait me. At the same time, I'm more intent than ever on retaining and strengthening ties to old friends. If anything truly helps us weather strange times, it's having vibrant and eclectic community at the enter of our lives.

New Years resolutions are ridiculous, but I do know that I want to double-down on many aspects of personal fulfillment as well, from my health to my creative writing. Trying to fit everything into a well-ordered and comfortable life isn't easy, but I'm excited for the challenge.

What are some of your hopes and dreams for the year ahead? Some of your fears? Hopes and fears alike are best shared, given form outside our minds. Find a loved-one, a trusted confidant, and unburden your heart to them. Offer that same space to them in return. Usher in a new year lighter, more reflective, than the year you've left behind.

That's all I have to say right now, folks.

For auld lang syne... go easy, and if you can't go easy just go as easy as you can.


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