Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Infant Year

[Published well after the fact]

The calendar offers every year the same gift: a sense of newness, in the middle of winter. A new start. It's artificial, aside from its adherence to the moon's path, but welcome regardless. We've marked it to the minute. In this sense, a year's turn is like a day's turn: at the frigid midnight hour comes a clockwork tick, and it's suddenly not yesterday anymore. A new number on the corner of the screen. Artificial, yes, but that mental picture can move the heart.

We name newborn people, and I've sometimes given a resonating word or phrase to a newborn year, something to name the next 12 calendar months. These flag-words have often proved to be the opposite of a rally cry; the years they name have almost always been examples of the opposite of what the word or phrase described. The year of "Action" was for me a year of confusion and hesitation. Years of "Hope" or "Faith" became years of deconstruction toward a solemn skepticism and years of vision-less presence.

The word on my tongue in these first few infant weeks has been "Empathy," a word newly given to me through the course of many conversations about the failure of human hearts to understand each other, to get along. And as this word sets itself to slow-dry in the year's nameplate, Empathy, I already feel a profound self-examination setting in. In the year of reaching out, I'm finally feeling conscious enough to reach in and begin a lasting change within myself. I see the need: I've always talked big, talked prettily, but in the end I've never had the self-substance to believe something, to want something enough to act, to fight for it.

Last night, I saw The Social Network, the film about Facebook's birth and father, Mark Zuckerberg. I left feeling broken. And angry. I want to know this: why can these various self-focused technological geniuses manufacture within themselves the sort of force that enables the realization of whatever vision their ego allows, while I get sloppily lost in mental picture after picture?

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