Living in Society

Christmas Eve – 2021

Earthrise by Bill Anders, Dec. 24, 1968

Best wishes to readers for end of year holidays.

In our house, it is Christmas Eve, although there is a string of notable days running from mid-December through January. I enjoy those Christmas seasons when I can stay home without pressure from work or other social obligations. During the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense to avoid exposure to others, although the isolation is only partly mitigated by modern communications technology.

Leaving home can be a traumatic experience. When I left home in 1970 to attend university I didn’t understand there would be no permanent return to my home town. When our child left Iowa in 2007 there was also a lack of understanding of how the change would affect us. We do the best we can during holidays, whether child or parent. The veil of our illusions wears thin at the end of the year.

On Christmas Eve my tradition is to review this photo taken by Bill Anders during Apollo 8. It changed my life, and those of many others, to see Earth suspended in space, alone and vulnerable. Some say it sparked the environmental movement. The problem is the environmental movement and society more generally have been doing a poor job of mitigating the worse effects of the climate crisis. The coming week before New Year’s Day is projected to be the warmest December week in recorded history for North America. It is a cause for concern for us all.

For Christmas Eve dinner there will be cornbread and chili, followed by settling in to a long night. We did not decorate the house for the holiday and haven’t the last few years. If we have guests during a future holiday season I expect we will get the boxes out from under the stairway, reminisce about the decorations and how we came to have them, and put them up. Not this year, though.

It is a time for letting go the frustrations and tensions 2021 created within and among us. The year began with an attempt to overturn the results of the November 2020 U.S. presidential election. It is ending with a robust economic recovery that could only have happened with the leadership of President Biden and his administration. It was a year of the yinyang of being American.

As we prepare for a winter, delayed by a warming planet, it’s time to consider the future and actually do things to bring peace on Earth. That we will is my Christmas Eve wish.

However you celebrate year’s end, I wish you health and happiness as we prepare to enter the new year.