Happy New Year

Well, 2020 is finally over. What a ride. Now, I don’t really believe that 2020 is a magic number, and that somehow 2021 is going to be massively better despite very little having changed since 2020. I recall one of my brothers, decades ago, when he just started a philosophy degree, railing against what he saw as a useless discussion during one of his classes; it involved a thought experiment involved a magical door. What if you could walk through a magical door to an alternate universe, where everything was exactly the same as it is here, except you would be happier. Would you do that?

My brother thought the question was ridiculous, making an argument that comes to mind today when people cheer for 2020 being over: if, in that hypothetical universe, everything was exactly the same, wouldn’t you be just as happy there as you’d be here? One of two things must be true here: either your happiness is dependent on external factors, in which case your happiness could not increase by travelling to this other universe (as everything is the same); or, otherwise, your happiness is a wholly internal affair, which would imply that you could be just as happy in this universe as you would be in that other.

Okay, fair – you could argue the third route: your happiness involves an interaction between your internal state of mind and external factors both in and out of your scope of control. Having done absolutely no research into this, naively this sounds like a plausible assumption. The same ends up applying for that thought experiment, though: you’d be no happier there than here.

I see the move from 2020 to 2021 the same way. I as much as everybody around me have enjoyed focusing on 2020 as though the problem lay with that number, and that externalisation provided a measure of relief. COVID-19 is still there. So is late-stage capitalism. It still seems as though the USA could erupt in civil war any day. Now, I wouldn’t blame you for assuming that means I am cynical and depressed about this, and need to spew my bile. Quite the opposite – I find that these situations encourage me; it means there’s work to be done. The type of issues in I mentioned are well outside of my locus of control, but that’s never stopped me from trying to improve my life by being better than I was yesterday.

The other day I was talking with Tracy, and we discovered that we are doing better, every day. We’ve moved into this apartment back in June, and slowly but surely we’re improving every aspect of it. It’s becoming a really nice place for us to live. Sure, our plans of one day emigrating to Canada have been put on an indeterminate hiatus, thanks to the global pandemic, but on the flipside we’ve been putting done more roots here like this. To protect those around us, we following sensible guidelines for restricting physical contact, so we’ve not explored as much of our surroundings as we would have liked, but instead we’ve worked on increasing our mobility options. For each step, we parry and advance.

I could try and tie this in to new beginnings or New Year’s resolutions but simply said this is what we’ve been doing for the past months already. We’re planners – it’s what we do. And that’s the thing about that door to that alternative universe: the underlying assumption is that you could be happier by changing absolutely nothing. Happiness takes work. Sadness take work too. Just about anything takes work.

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