Easing into a New Perspective on the Last Day of a Hard Year

During 2018, I watched as most of my expressed wishes for the year (see below, beneath the separator line) perished in the suffocating smog of angry right-wing resurgence. Around mid-year, my broad, world-view perspective narrowed as a brother was hospitalized for serious surgery that morphed into life-threatening surgical infection that, thankfully, he overcame. Subsequently, my focus turned inward as I learned that I had lung cancer that would require surgery and, later, chemotherapy and radiation. In retrospect, perhaps I should have finished 2017 not by suggesting it ought to be euthanized but by calling for the feticide of 2018. Ah, nothing I could have done would have changed the course of the year, medically. I learned a lesson, though, about allowing my perspective to be too broad; more immediate issues involving the health of family, friends, and self outweigh the broader world stage. Without the strength of those personal support networks, it would be impossible to impact the wider world. So, now I look toward 2019 with both trepidation and welcome.

I remain fearful that right-wing philosophies that essentially dismiss humanitarian principles will continue to gain ground. Rather than fighting them by treating their adherents as enemies, I think the best approach is two-fold: 1) attempt to understand the fear and anger that drives those philosophies; and 2) address that fear and anger while simultaneously dedicating energies toward living in accord with humanitarian principles. That is, acknowledge that people do not latch on to right-wing philosophies because the philosophies feed their evil cores; they cling to them because they are afraid and feel threatened. The philosophy associated with the second item is best summarized by the aphorism: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Does it work? I can’t guarantee that it does, but I think it has a chance. I hope I can live up to that simple philosophy.

I plan to focus a great deal of my time and thought in the coming year on the wisdom I believe is contained in simple aphorisms and the philosophies that launched them. For example: “Be here now.” “If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path.” “As one person, I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” There are more. Lots more. I realize that many people consider such “motivational quotes” to be just so much bullshit; it wasn’t long ago that I was among them. I think my attitude began to change around 2014. I don’t know precisely why it happened, but I am glad it did. If anyone reading this post thinks as I once did, know that I don’t judge you for it; that would be the height of hypocrisy, wouldn’t it?

Though I have plans for 2019, few of them are firm and none suitable for translation into “resolutions.” I once wrote that January 1 is an artificial start date for a new year. I still believe that. But I’ve softened a little on that, too. While I don’t plan on making resolutions, I think making them is quite good for people who find value in making them.  And, though I’m not making resolutions, per se, I intend to make changes in myself when I can. I’ll write about that more when I have more to say about it.

One thing I intend to change is this: I will try to focus more on how I can ease my wife’s experience with my cancer and its treatments than I will on making it easier for myself.  As my writing heretofore confirms, I’ve spent too much time on myself and not enough time on how my experience is affecting her.


I wrote, on the last day of  last year, that it was time to euthanize 2017. And here’s what I expressed for 2018:

Here’s what I look forward to, on the social/political/philosophical front(s) in the year ahead:

  1. In the U.S., voter turnout will surprise those who expect mid-term elections to be uninspiring. The awful surprise of November 2016 will cause voters and former non-voters to come out in droves, supporting an agenda of equality, compassion, and decency.
  2. Women will surge in numbers, both in terms of candidates for elections and in terms of people elected to serve at all levels of local, state, and national government.
  3. Globally, an uprising against both religious persecution and theocracy will drive a movement toward more secular governments. In the U.S., the loud but shrinking evangelical right will find its voice dwindling as the aging relics who drive the movement die off.
  4. People worldwide will call on their governments to serve their people and to save their people. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, and Southeastern Asia, significant progress will be made toward eradicating hunger.
  5. While a drift toward the right, politically, will continue around the globe, it will slow and will be “infected” with greater compassion and decency. Conservatism will begin to morph into a fiscal philosophy without such ugly roots.

I’m not really making predictions. I’m just suggesting possibilities and making wishes.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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