Saturday morning, I wore black to speak at an 18-year-old’s funeral. In the evening, I put on a pink jumpsuit to attend a birthday party. This day of opposites captures what 2023 has felt like: a year of contrasts.
In the words of my former boss and mentor, Rick Ridgeway, “There is no life without death. Spend a lot of time in Nature and you carry that truth deep in your bones.”
At the service, I read Finn’s own words from his college essay about trusting in the unknown. Seeing his friends with their arms around one another at the memorial, sobbing and laughing, broke my heart and mended it at the same time. They spoke so eloquently around three main themes: the positive ways that Finn influenced them in life, their curiosity about what happens after death, and the many ways that they will carry their friend with them, always. “I owe my greatness to Finn,” said Jack. Then Finn’s mom, Erica, spoke about his “Flow.” Finn loved his thick, luscious hair. When chemo took it all away, he rocked his bald head. He didn’t cover it up. Erica said, “That’s when I realized that Finn’s flow wasn’t his hair. It was him.”
In the car on the way home, the radio announced that scientists discovered a second cosmic ray, as powerful as the OMG particle. Its energy is so great, and its source so mysterious, its existence is breaking physics. This made me think of Finn, of course, but also of my “certainty” that 2024 is going to be terrible. If there are still mysteries out there that challenge everything we understand to be true about physics, then maybe I don’t know everything 😉
Later that night, twenty of us sat around one family table while our friend Rodrigo, the birthday boy, served a delicious Italian feast that he had prepared for us. The guests, mostly Argentinians, broke into song every few minutes. I needed this celebration of life, and so I sang along in broken Spanish and Italian. It was a reminder, the way birdsong is a reminder, that we must keep singing even when the world feels tilted toward loss.
Goodbye to a friend in the morning, Hello to another in the evening.
Today, the Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year. Every day from now on, there is more light. I like thinking about that; it reminds me to lean toward the light.
There are really only three four ways I know to do this: 1. Spend time in Nature 2. Make someone else’s day better 3. Write or make art 4. Develop a “Delight” radar.
To live a life of meaning and impact, we have to be able to do two contrasting things at once: Fully face the darkness and have unflinching trust in the unknown. Or, as On Being host Krista Tippett says, “Train your gaze to see what’s terrible, but also to see what’s wonderful and beautiful.” I’ll keep trying if you will.