Six years ago, in an end-of-year reflection titled, There’s a crack, a crack in everything, I wrote:
“We have witnessed and participated in another year marked by hubris, schadenfreude and political smokescreens. We are more polarised than ever. We participated in an unnecessary, non-compulsory postal survey. We rejected the generosity of our neighbours, preferring to play politics with people’s lives. We engaged the First People’s of this nation in a lengthy consultation process and then dismissed their recommendation as swiftly as we might swat away a fly. I say ‘we’ because these are the leaders we vote for, and these are the behaviours we condone.”
”What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.“1
Or in the words of convenience store philosopher, Appa (Mr. Kim):
Add to this history-repeating list that more than 110 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide due to persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations. Ongoing violence and humanitarian crises in Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Gaza will displace even more people.
People who have lost almost everything: their homes, security and family members. Countless others have lost their lives. As always, women and children are disproportionately impacted by violence, war, famine and displacement.
One hundred ten million is more than four times the population of Australia. Every ‘number’ is a human being whose worth is no more or less than our own. In the face of large numbers, extensive violence and humanitarian crises, we can turn our backs, turn against each other, or we can open our hearts, minds and hands.
“There’s a crack, a crack in everything…” so where did the light get in?
Depending on your context, where you live, and the challenges you face, there may be a lot of gaping cracks, yet not much light.
I don’t mean to be flippant. Dehumanisation, division, death, destruction, poverty and war are neither trivial nor unremarkable.
As 2023 draws to a close, Christmas and New Year celebrations can give us pause to consider what we’ve navigated and where we might be headed.
For me, Christmas is the announcement of God made flesh. God who chose humble beginnings and a life with little comfort but offered comfort to others. God who was carried across borders by his parents, fleeing their homeland to seek safety. God who proclaimed peace, forgiveness and goodwill for all – irrespective of class, gender, race, ability, assets or status. God who demonstrated love for neighbours, strangers and enemies. God who embraced ’outcasts’ and was dragged before an empire’s Kangaroo Court to be brutally executed by them.
The Christmas story remains one of hope and light amid cracks. Christmas is a story of wonder.
Wonder (noun): a feeling of amazement and admiration caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar: he observed the intricacy of the ironwork with the wonder of a child.2
And wonder can be found anywhere we are willing to look, listen to, and be open to it.
Finding wonder requires curiosity.
Living on the surface of a planet that’s rotating at 1,656 km per hour, orbiting the sun at 108,000 km per hour, in a solar system that’s orbiting the centre of our galaxy at 792,000 km per hour… is nothing short of miraculous.3 Wonder can be found in the big, mysterious and complex.
Wonder can also be found in small moments and everyday human interaction. For me, in 2023, that’s where the light got in. Amid the darkness of geopolitical violence, hubris and self-interest, the light shone when:
I learned that I’ll be a grandfather in 2024
delivering a meal to extended family
I was able to share a meal with a colleague
chatting with a stranger on a long-haul flight across the globe
we were able to bring all our kids together for Christmas
playing summer sport with a friend
finding a moment to sit with my wife and share a pot of tea
The list could go on. Seemingly unremarkable moments that were filled with wonder and light.
Will 2024 be a repeat of 2023?
Maybe. Indeed, for some. And for many, not of their choosing. But for those of us who have the privilege of choice, how might we live and share a story bigger than ourselves and, where possible, help others do the same? How might we shine and discover more light?
Five (humble) suggestions:
1. Pause to reflect on the journey
If you’re reading this, you made it to the end of 2023. What are you grateful for? What have you achieved? Who is on the journey with you? Despite the seeming prevalence of polarisation, I have witnessed countless instances of people coming together, engaging in genuine conversations, and finding common ground. These moments remind us that change is possible and within our grasp.
2. Embrace humility
Humility must be at the forefront of our interactions to create a more generous world. It is easy to become outraged, hurl comments, and walk away, but it takes strength to be open and seek the perspective of others. May we challenge ourselves to step into someone else’s shoes, listen to understand, and strive to build bridges and dining tables instead of walls.
3. Embrace uncertainty
One of the biggest hindrances to change is our fear of failure. However, growth often emerges from the cracks and imperfections. May we challenge our certainties and embrace the discomfort of personal growth. The more we listen and learn, the better equipped we are to contribute positively to the people and world around us.
4. Turn outrage into action
Outrage can be a powerful catalyst for change and is preferable to indifference, but it is not enough. We can make a tangible difference by channelling our frustrations into positive action. When we work together, we can transform outrage into meaningful change.
5. Foster community
In the age of digital communication, it is easy to forget the power of face-to-face connection. May we consciously reach out and engage with individuals whose perspectives differ from our own. Through genuine dialogue, we can build understanding, break down barriers, and pave the way for community to flourish.
The light gets in when we reflect, put aside outrage and indifference, and choose humility, uncertainty, action, and community.
May 2024 be the year we continue to let the light in and build a better future for all.