“When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rearview mirror. We march backwards into the future.” -Marshal McLuhan
With one foot still in this year and the other looking for energy enough to march into 2017, I cannot help but recall McLuhan’s iconic observation. I am not sure it is helpful, however, at the moment.
My rearview mirror is fogged up with disappointment and a concerned edginess. 2016 has not been the best of times personally, in Chicagoland, our country, and around the world. There is too much loss flavoring the recent past. Time, friends passing on, body telling me to “Act your age” and mind, “Deal with it.” And so I will.
The killings in Chicagoland, the madness of metal muscle and what at times seems like self-inflicted genocide have made Al Capone a fuzzy footnote in the city’s history. I feel ashamed for the city when I glance into McLuhan’s mirror.
The same for our country. The presidential campaign diminished us all. Every party concerned must realize that. We have lost some precious items that will be difficult to reclaim – civility, respect and trust. The rubble in the rearview mirror speaks for itself. Other domestic issues – social justice, law enforcement, racism and poverty – litter that scene as well.
The fearful darkness of terrorism continues to engulf the world, threatening … no, eroding freedom and arming streets. The madness in the Middle East is out of control and the tragedy of Aleppo is a wound to humanity’s heart. There is no silver lining to be found.
And so I choose to resist McLuhan’s insight and not “march backwards into the future.” I choose, rather, to look to and work with the present and count the blessings that can get us through our losses and into a world made better by all of us.
Believing is like dreaming. Both are forces for an attainable future. The former requires more than credos; without “doing,” belief is meaningless. And the latter, without risk-taking, dreams are mere reveries. Both find their meaning in looking forward, envisioning a peaceful world, a mountain-top nation, a welcoming neighborhood and a better, caring, and compassionate self.
The year and the world ahead is not in a rear-view mirror. It is in all of us, in the Now that marches forward, always. 2017 needs the best in all of us if it is to be a truly Happy New Year.