For some people, 2008 was the Year of the Crunch. The year that Lehmans finally fell, the year that fresh MBAs suddenly stopped wanting to work for investment banks. The year that stock markets crashed worldwide, property prices slid alarmingly and jobs disappeared.
For some people, 2008 was the Year of the Change. The year that hope returned to many people as Barack Obama was elected President of the United States of America. An amazing story when you think it is only 40 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
When you leave aside the markets and the elections, the storylines get thinner. The Mumbai attacks, the Beijing Olympics and the Large Hadron Collider are the principal ones that come to mind; events in Zimbabwe continue to concern and frustrate me, and the situation in Cuba only serves to mystify.
As was the case in Mumbai, 2008 was a time of sadness for many, as people lost their loved ones in wars and accidents and natural disasters. My condolences to all who have suffered loss. The world also said goodbye to some people known by all and sundry: Bobby Fischer, Paul Newman, Edmund Hillary, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Mark Felt (Deep Throat during Watergate) are those I particularly remember; I also thought it was remarkable that Albert Hoffman, the man who discovered LSD, and Mahesh Yogi, the Maharishi who gave us Transcendental Meditation, managed to outlast their Sixties contemporaries so well.
For a small group of people, 2008 was the Year of the Shoe.
All in all, we’ve had better years, haven’t we?
But I’m not complaining. I have nothing to complain about. I have a great wife and great children, I enjoy my job, I’m part of a healthy and active and growing church, I feel part of my community. We have a warm house, the views are beautiful, there’s food in the fridge. A grand piano, a bunch of guitars, a flute. Two cats and a kitten. Books and music aplenty.
I am content and happy. Two years ago this Christmas, I’d just gone into ventricular fibrillation, my life expectancy was being measured in minutes, my “ejection fraction” was nearly at single figures. Now my medical insurers refuse to pay cardiologist visit bills on the basis I don’t need such services. I am content, happy and glad to be alive.
That’s what I wish for all of you, for 2009. Contentment. Happiness. Gladness in being alive. And this photograph, my all-time favourite, is to help you remember what’s important. A boy sitting on the steps of an orphanage holding on to his first pair of shoes. I know I’ve written about this photograph before, but I have no qualms in referring to it again. None whatsoever. [Update: Over the years I’ve discovered the name of the orphanage and, more recently, even the child’s name. Such is the power of the web.]
To all of you. 2009. May it bring you contentment. Happiness. Gladness in being alive.