The year 2020 is coming to a close, and what a year indeed. Having the entire world turn upside down in the face of a virus surely have made the past 366 days very special, albeit not one we ever expected. As we enter the next chapter of the world, what is there to even hope for?
The Covid-19 pandemic has of course, rattled our world. It has changed how we live and how we view the year 2020, as almost overnight we became confined to our homes, have masks as the top fashion trends of the year, and questioned our sanity. It is truly remarkable how humanity have adapted in the face of its microscopic threat.
The fact is, negative emotions like fear and sadness trigger increased activity in a part of the brain linked to memories. These emotionally charged memories are preserved in greater detail than happy or more neutral memories. Bad memories also linger, being more likely to be preserved than good memories. The accumulation of these terrible memories, of course is what lead many to believe that “X year has been the worst!”
A new year has always been the source of hope for many people. The arbitrary concept of entering a new stage, a new state, a new level will always give the feeling of a fresh start for those yearning for a better fate and better future. Humans simply remember bad memories far better than good memories, and thus the end of the year would be the source of many commentators stating how terrible the past year was, or how the year before this one was somewhat “better” and more “endearing.”
The trend of being dissatisfaction with how our year have been is the direct result of the expectations we keep placing on the upcoming year as this blank slate where we are at its center. The reality of course more often than not never meets our expectations, causing the subsequent shattering of all our hopes, an infinite spiral of despair and reconstructing our hopes for the next year. In the rubble of collapsed dreams, one might retreat and surround themselves in a garden of pessimism.
Pessimism would appear to be the exit we always needed, for if we have little to no expectations, we would have no disappointments to face with. 2020 was already a horrible year, what’s to say that a transition to another would solve all the world’s problems? Furthermore, the naïve optimism that we would normally incorporate and promote in our lives can sometimes be tiresome to maintain, so why even bother to hope for anything at all?
If the bleakness and darkness of a hopeless world sounds overwhelming, it is justifiably so. Turning to religion and schools of thoughts, many incorporate some form of acceptance of the suffering and pains of life itself. Buddhism, in its Four Truths states that Life is dukkha, or suffering. The philosophies of Absurdism and Existentialism states that we are constantly finding meaning in a life without meaning. These frameworks of thought all seek the same thing: Unravelling the messy and tangled threads of suffering and continue living in spite of its hardships.
Mankind has existed on the foundation of tenacity and persistence of hope in the malevolent force life throws at it. Life is often cruel, unforgiving, and insufferable to live in, and yet we continue to walk this earth, for in all the bleakness, a radiant glow burns inside of all humans from the day we exist. While we possess fear of our world coming to an abrupt end, we choose to keep soldiering on and buck all that tries to stop us.
Life, and all its components, is akin to a video game that we keep on playing. A game with a set of rules, some we understand and some we don’t. In playing the game, constantly losing makes us feel disappointed and sad, while we always desire to win, but constantly winning in a game where we know all the tricks and cheats takes all the fun all of it. To throw the game away because we lose sometimes would be utterly ridiculous, for it is the entire foundation for us to find joy and happiness in winning. There’s always something satisfying about winning, even more when we have grown courage to go against all odds that have been thrown at us.
As the sun finally sets on 2020, the time has come to reflect not only the suffering and pain we have felt, but the joys and pleasures we have experienced, and to look at the dawn of 2021 to not be the year that will serve as the end-all be-all, but another chapter in humanity’s great struggle to keep on existing in a seemingly futile world.