The Here & Now is ringing in the new year with reflections from residents. We would like to thank Robert Craig Baum, whose Wisdom 1096 project inspired this insert.

by Arun Ivatury

In the past year — as the pandemic continued to rage, as our planet neared its point-of-no-return, as democracy hung in the balance, as refugees of a hazardous and unequal world migrated in search of safety and security — I have sometimes imagined future historians looking back on 2021. 

Will it bewilder them that a civilization with the wherewithal to rapidly produce a life-saving vaccine lacked the will to adopt and share it widely, allowing a deadly disease to fester? Will they wonder why human beings, facing an existential threat to their planet, dithered for the sake of profit and convenience? Will they question why people in the world’s foremost democratic societies sacrificed communal well-being at the altar of an impoverished notion of freedom? Will they puzzle over how people with deeply-held beliefs in charity and kindness could close their country’s door to others in need?  

We humans are a bundle of contradictions, and here in our country — with extremes of both stratospheric wealth and grinding poverty, technological wizardry and willful ignorance — we see perhaps the most dramatic contradictions of all.

I think that at their root, our contradictions flow from the ever-present and very human tension between pursuing one’s own wants and pursuing what benefits us all. In today’s age, an unruly Greek chorus stokes these fires by encouraging an I-me-mine mentality and dividing us from each other based on manufactured or trivial distinctions. In this environment one can feel our shared commitment to the common good waning.

But I am not without hope. By the time you read this, a rocket with Earth’s most technologically advanced telescope will be en route to its final destination: Lagrange 2, one of five points where the gravitational pulls of the Earth and the Sun balance out, making it a perfect spot from which to peer out into the universe and send findings back home. 

Might the discovery of other habitable worlds remind us of the preciousness of our own? If we found reason to truly consider our place in the universe, we might reflect on our responsibility to each other and the common fate we inevitably share. Perhaps in 2022 we will find the Lagrange point of our own natures, where we balance our own desires with what we know all beings – and Earth itself – need and deserve, thus generating a dynamic harmony that transforms the world.

Imagine how the historians of the future would marvel.

Resident Arun Ivatury helps lead international organizing campaigns for the Service Employees International Union and in his spare time embarks on musical and other assorted adventures with many talented friends and neighbors.

Read more reflections here:

Maxine Gross: The best and the worst of it

Robert Craig Baum: Three Februarys

Mary Anne Hakes: A more closely knit community

Theodore Francis Baum: Math and masks