Be thankful for large mercies, I say, the smaller ones will take care of themselves.
As another year winds down, I am happy to deploy four simple words of gratitude (and relief) to describe my condition: I remain alive and well, prosperous and content.
I have just one resolution for the coming year: to see out 2012 the same way. The same aspiration applies of course to my beloved Martha, to whom an incalculable debt is owed, in at least three respects, for my idyllic status.
Happy personal circumstances aside, 2011 was hardly a year to recall fondly, though it goes without saying that not a single year in history has escaped disaster and tribulation, natural and man-made.
Nature inflicted on Japan a devastating tsunami, one made all the more horrifying by causing a meltdown at a nuclear plant. The world economy teetered on the brink of a recession (one that may yet occur in 2012) and the so-called Euro-zone staggered from one debt-induced crisis to another (and remains unresolved as I write). Riots, accompanied by looting, erupted in cities across England, leaving Britain to ponder, with a sense of foreboding, what they said about an evidently dysfunctional and crassly materialistic society. Stifling August weather was hardly to blame, for the summer was unusually cool and wet, even by English standards.
Outbreaks of social mayhem, of varying severity, occurred in other parts of the world, too. A maniac in peaceable Norway inexplicably set off bombs in Oslo, a pointless act he followed up by just as pointlessly gunning down dozens of adolescents attending an island summer camp.
The Middle East and North Africa hosted a series of nascent revolutions, with long-term implications of worrying unpredictability. At year-end, Egyptians, having encouraged its army to bring down the despotic Mubarak, were back on the streets, this time protesting against what they perceived to be an even more despotic army. Even Russians, no strangers to revolution, turned to public demonstration, to express their dissatisfaction with the autocratic Putin, whom they regard as a dictator in all but name, elections or no elections.
American and British soldiers continued to fall, dead or maimed, in Afghanistan, in a war that entered its tenth year, and which many Americans and Britons – though not their governments – had come to believe was without valid purpose and, in the popular vernacular, ‘unwinnable’.
As always in such times, one turned to minor diversions.
Britons cheered when The King’s Speech swept the Hollywood Oscars, and just about every other award ceremony. A royal wedding, transporting a nation into realms of make-believe, provided a blessed relief from the encircling economic gloom. England’s cricketers became, by all statistical measures, the top-ranked team in the world, a status achieved by thrashing the Australians in an unexpectedly one-sided Ashes series down-under, and toppling the previous title-holder, India. at home. (The rugby team simultaneously traveled in the opposite direction, but one can’t have everything.)
If 2012 is unpredictable, that makes it no different from all other years in history. Anniversaries loom by the dozen, promising diverse forms of celebration or remembrance. Here is my selection.
Britain – or at least England – will rejoice in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, to be marked by parties and parades, the latter to include a nautical procession up the Thames.
Charles Dickens has a 200th anniversary (his birth). Television has already aired yet another version of Great Expectations, and I understand a film is in the works. Dickens will share his birthday with Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow and the renewal of hostilities between Britain and the United States.
One hundred years have passed since the Titanic went down and Captain Scott perished on his return from the South Pole. Expect more films and television reruns.
Of more recent note – and well within my recollection – it is 50 years since the Telstar satellite beamed the first television pictures across the Atlantic (an on-screen event hosted by Richard Dimbleby in London and Walter Cronkite in New York) and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The coming year will also mark the half-century since the first Beatles hit record (Love Me Do) and the first James Bond film (Dr. No), and the death of Marilyn Monroe.
Meanwhile, Martha and I look forward to our own Big Event, our Sara’s May 5th wedding to George. So, my wish is for a beautiful occasion.
May it also be a happy and healthy year for the four of us.
And the same to my readers … all five of you.