2014: The Year of the Moon

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

So let’s add this up. Final grades have just come in: they may have not been stellar. Pounds may have been added due to holiday festivities. Money has most likely been drained because of holiday shopping and perhaps some retail therapy. Internship placements may have fallen through. You’re still broken up. One pair of hands may be still eternally missing from the decoration of the Christmas tree. Your parents’ divorce is still very much final. Santa Claus forgot to drop off the extra dose of sanity and strong drinks that are often needed during the “most wonderful time of the year.” All is supposed to be right in the world and, yet, the same old crap that bogs you down every day doesn’t magically disappear when the Christmas tree and the menorah are lit. A famous Christmas song even promises it: “have yourself a merry little Christmas- from now on our troubles will be out of sight.” But the troubles are still very much in sight. So you wait. And you hope. The magical date of January first looms nearer as you place your happiness in the promise of a fresh start in the form of your new year’s resolution.

So who am I? Well, some may consider me the holidays’ scrooge. Here I am reminding you of how stressful your life can get when Hallmark convinces us that this is a time of year for magic and a renewed beginning. And, in a way, it is. After the partying happens on New Years Eve, gym memberships are purchased. Appointments at the tutoring center are made. Volunteering opportunities are scheduled in order to procure that spot in Heaven. Vows to stop smoking are said. And yet, the crap: it lingers. We still can’t catch on to the groove of complete happiness that we are taught is the norm from the time we are infants: normal people are completely happy people. So what the hell is wrong with us? Why can’t we measure up to the happiness that is sold to us in the form of flawless magazine models, picturesque nuclear families on TV, and the girl who has 2,000 “friends” on Facebook? We have to fit into the happiness mold! And 2014 is the year to do this! Resolutions help us become happy! They give us control; complete happiness is now in our reach.

Here’s the catch, though: life is, by my own definition, a period of time in which we struggle to find the good. And it is through this struggle that happiness is found. It is stumbled upon when dragons are slayed and fleeting moments when the good guy wins. It is through the struggle that true value is found. I would argue that the fight for the good is the good itself.

One of my favorite artists, Jason Mraz, summarizes this sentiment perfectly when he sings:

 

“240 thousand miles from the moon, you’ve come a long way to belong here, to share this view of the night, a glorious night, over the horizon is another bright sky…sometimes it may seem dark but the absence of the light is the necessary part.”

 

It is in this way that the experience of the darkness is a privilege. There is no reward without striving; there is no light without the darkness. And even though we are always 240 thousand miles from the moon, its light overcomes the black abyss. The moon is never within reach, but it guides and motivates us just like happiness does. Like the moon, happiness is never completely achievable; the darkness will always separate us. But the striving: ah, it is through the ever striving to reach happiness and the metaphorical moon that keeps us engaged in our own light.

So this New Years, let’s get realistic and learn to dance in the darkness. Savor the hard time and throw yourself in it. Because while I hope 2014 is a year filled with bliss for you, I also hope that there is some darkness involved. But mostly, I hope that, perhaps for a change of pace, you regard the darkness as a privilege as it presents to you the opportunity to overcome hardship and find the good that is striving itself. Of course, many of you will still buy the gym memberships and the Nicorette products. And for that, I applaud you. I always encourage health and balance; too many of us lack both.

But for all of you, I hope that you never forget that little light just 240 thousand miles away. Know that it dances just for you; it will always overcome the darkness. Go outside and savor the majesty of the being that only appears in the utter blackness and is still revered by all when it comes to its fullness and glows with the promise of guidance in the dark blanket of the night.

This year, go be a helper of the moon. The world needs more people who light the night and who can come to their fullness in the midst of hardship. After all, the other stars will imitate it. And the sky will light up.

Finally, the sky will be lit up.

 

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3 thoughts on “2014: The Year of the Moon

  1. I know you’re achieving copious critical acclaim from Facebook, but I thought anonymous constructive criticism might inure to your benefit and to the benefit of your readers.
    Your desire to be deep/philosophical/inspirational is admirable, but rings hollow upon anything more than a perusal. You use as your letter’s foundation the classic concept of relational definitions, implying a teleological nature to things. Does a thing even exist as what it is if that for which it exists is not? Your answer to that is no, and is evidenced in your belief that in a world without evil as we know it, there would also be no good. Thus, darkness allows for light, we should embrace the darkness, we should strive in the midst of hardship, etc.While there is a philosophical possibility that the essence of that which is good could still exist in a world devoid of evil (though it would be unrecognizable), it’s an unpopular idea as it calls into question the perfection of the world in which we live. If evil is unnecessary for the existence of good, then this world just straight-up blows, right? So I’ll give you the relational definitions point purely based on popular opinion and my personal desire for meaning in the world in which I live…but you shouldn’t just assume it. The real point of contention is your conception of “the good.” Is it a theistic good (what God wants)? Is it a utilitarian good (what’s best for the most)? Is it a personal good (what’s best for the individual)? It seems as though we are the arbiters of what is good, according to you. This, of course, leads to subjective morality and extreme moral relativism. So you have to define what the good is toward which everyone is striving and that everyone is achieving in said striving. Once that is done, things might make a little more sense. If not, technically anyone striving for what he or she believes is good is necessarily taking part in the good, which does not seem to hold true unless one believes that hate speech that someone believes is good and strives to disseminate to the world is a net boon. An extreme example, I know, but based on the logic of the letter the person is doing good, as she/he is striving against a perceived evil for a supposed good.
    Also, I don’t feel particularly inspired by a message that is in essence saying, “Don’t get down when stuff you don’t like happens. Embrace the bad stuff because it’s inherently good to strive against it, and the bad allows you to see more clearly that which is good.” If the case is such that the bad is doing good by allowing a person to see the good, then that bad is actually good. If it’s actually good, then there is no evil by which to see the good. The logic is untenable. Embracing the evil as some form of good is counterproductive. You have made the goal the striving, thus making a good of the evil. In truth, it would be more effective to keep the evil evil and have its eradication allow for the permeation of good. The striving is an intention. It’s what you want to do, what you’re trying to do. But the pathway to hell (metaphorically-speaking…I don’t know about the existence or non-existence of hell…it’s just a quote and colloquial aphorism) is paved with good intentions. The striving is only half the battle. We can’t just pat ourselves on or respective backs because we tried. I don’t want to live in a world that is like pee-wee soccer, where effort garners reward. Results are the crux of the issue. Of course, there is the possibility of noble suffering in the midst of unavoidable evil or suffering.There, results cannot be expected, and that is certainly fair to point out to detract from my critique. In light of this possibility, I will gladly amend my position to omit those instances.
    So, basically, I felt that without a definition of “the good” and without a logically tenable or morally beneficial message, your letter fell flat.
    I love the premise though. I mean, it’s cliche, but cliches exist for a reason. It’s wonderful that you thought it wise to de-romanticize the holiday season. People do expect too much from it. I think your letter would have been magnificent if you had not tried to overextend yourself. Calling us to appreciate the effort and hardship that goes into the holidays because without it they would mean less, would have been golden. I mean, few would deny that generosity would mean as much were it not difficult, or that travel or hosting would mean as much were they not time-consuming. It’s not that those things are not good without the effort, but they are enhanced. The overcoming of the urge towards selfishness that blossoms into generosity is awesome (in the true sense of the word, not the way chocolate chip cookies are “awesome”). It’s less about the striving and more about the effect. I think you bit off a little more than you could chew when you attempted to write a philosophy for life. This is not to detract from your obvious intellectual capacity, but to explicate that it is an insurmountable task for most if not all. I sure as heck can’t do it.
    Lastly, as an alumnus, I LOVE to see that this site exists. The student body is way more active now than it ever was in my day, and I am thrilled. Keep up the good work, but try to work a little harder on making it meaningful rather than pleasing to the ear and eye.

    • Your argument is nauseating, for the following reasons:

      Your diction. Are you kidding me? Did you type this in a word document and go through the thesaurus for every word you used? Inure? “Rings hollow upon anything more than a perusal”? Do you talk like this in real life? If so, it might explain why you have so much time to write such a pretentious response to a caring and passionate young woman just trying to bring a positive message to her many readers. Shame on you. I’m sure Abby would love to know how she could work harder on making her posts more or less “pleasing to the . . . eye.” Should she use fancier fonts? Center justification? I assume the only way for her to make her posts more pleasing to YOUR eye is simply to have you write them for her, because obviously you love reading your own writing. How else should we explain so many unnecessary words?

      Your hypocrisy. You say that her argument is hollow, but how about yours? You make a (terrible) attempt to frame your response as some sort of helpful words of wisdom. But what this really is is a holier-than-thou diatribe that lets you showcase your amazing knowledge of philosophy. Thanks for that; we didn’t need it. If I can ask, under what conception of “the good” does your reply fall? Who is this helping? I do not buy that you really think this thinly failed egomaniacal rant is for the benefit of anyone other than yourself. But I sure hope this made you feel good, somehow. Because even though it seems like you draw pleasure from scoring points on talented and compassionate people like Abby on anonymous message boards, I’m sure that she would still want you to have a happy and blessed holiday season. Because she is a good person. It seems like it is Abby who should be teaching you the lesson.

      Finally, I imagine Abby is not terribly shaken up by the fact that you are not personally inspired by her message. I can promise you that nobody felt so inspired (maybe exhausted? more pessimistic about the human race?) after reading yours. Based on the positive responses she has received on Facebook and in general on this website, she has enough support that she can do without your approval. But thanks for the philosophy lesson. I’m sure it will be extremely useful in this job market.

      Chocolate chip cookies are “awesome” under any definition of that word.

    • What a terribly sad, sad response! After reading such a beautiful and thought-provoking piece, this is what you walk away with? That’s truly a shame. Now, I’m not going to take the same approach that you did. I’m not going to pull out my notes from philosophy class so that I can seem oh-so-intelligent. My dictionary will remain untouched on the self. Rather, I’m going to be real, which by the looks of your comment is something you most likely struggle with in your life. Abby’s piece is insightful and intelligent, as is she. It was a wonderfully-crafted look at something that is otherwise often overlooked. How many 21 year olds do you know that have come to terms with the fact that the holidays aren’t all they’re cracked up to be? Not many on my end. Do you know a lot of people who can accept the fact that sometimes life does, in fact, suck? I don’t. Or perhaps you’d rather look at how many people in general are comfortable enough with themselves to write such a revealing piece? I know a select few, with Abby leading the pack.
      After reading this comment, all I could think is: “Wow. This person is mean.” Granted, there were a few following thoughts that have since been deemed inappropriate for publishing, that is the main point. Do you have nothing better to do than to write attacking comments about others online? I suggest finding a new hobby, because this post sure makes you look like a you-know-what.
      Do you think you’re coy? Did you think you got a cheap chuckle from your cookie comparison or you criticism of this article’s Facebook attention? Guess what- you didn’t. I can assure you that any laugh that came from that post was not with you, but at you.
      Finally, I would love to highlight my favorite line of your little comment. “Your desire to be deep/philosophical/inspirational is admirable, but rings hollow upon anything more than a perusal.” And what exactly do you think your comment did? Abby had a desire to be deep/philosophical/ inspirational, and she did it. You, on the other hand, should be embarrassed.
      L.R., I strongly suggest taking some time to do a little personal reflection before your next self-righteous online rant- because let’s be honest, that is the only way to describe that garbage that you just gifted us readers with. And anonymously posted, no less! How bold. You say you wanted to help Abby improve her writing, for both her writing and her readers? “Constructive criticism,” that’s what you call this? Adorable, really. Well, I suggest you save the advice for someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

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