“Darkness, the truest darkness isn't the absence of light; it is the conviction that the light will never return. But the light always returns to show us things familiar, home, family, and things entirely new or long overlooked. It shows us new possibilities and challenges us to pursue them."
So ends Lois Lane’s reporting in the 2017 movie Justice League. How pertinent is her observation for the year 2020? And how challenged and committed we have become to pursuing new possibilities. There were indeed times when we hit the seemingly endless darkness with Covid plague death rates only understood by previous historical eras but never ours.
The darkness of the plague affected everything in our daily lives – our families, our homes, our security, and our businesses. Nothing has been unaffected. Yet here we stand with the death rate still on the rise. Nevertheless I believe we are at the turning of the tide with the light of functioning vaccines finally on the horizon. Will 2021 be different? Yes, in so many ways – some known, some forecast, and some changes still unknowable.
Marie Curie said, "Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." That is a philosophy worth attempting to comprehend as we crawl from the depths of this global pandemic to a hopefully brighter vaccinated spring and a glorious covid-free summer/fall season next year.
This time has been an historic and particularly trying year for us all. Many have handled it with resilience, innovation, creativity, and a kind of fervor to get things righted. When faced with a series of situations never seen before, some have correctly approached it with techniques never used before. Bravo creativity in chaos!
On April 29th, 2020, I wrote about my presumptions of the new normal, where it seemed apparent that we were/are in a time machine, a machine that accelerates whatever was happening before. If your business was in decline, that decline was now accelerated. If your business was doing well, the methodologies and the technology you used for success should/could lead to further achievements, if not now, then in the near future.
We are continuing to innovate as an industry and that process will payoff ten-fold when this crisis is over. But we shouldn’t forget our brothers and sisters who were “covided” out of gainful employment. Too many of the people of our industry have been left without a job and the steady income we all need to support our families. The publishing industry has always had a life and death cycle, but that cycle is in a time warp of acceleration.
I suspect by June of 2021 we will see start-ups galore and new publications popping up everywhere hopefully reemploying our lost and furloughed team members. In retrospect the roaring 20s of the last century is easily now more understandable, and I expect the same lust for life to be demonstrated everywhere in our new normal of a future. The exuberance of survival can be most intoxicating and long-lasting.
J.R.R. Tolkien wasn't talking about a plague, but he covered our times and sentiments well when he had Frodo say, "I wish it need not have happened in my time." "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
What to do with the time that is given us? There is much angst and legitimate fear in the world today, some of it based on reality and some just imagined. It is hard some days to distinguish between the two, between the real plague at our doorstep and the imagined fear for family, friends, and co-workers. I have lost a few friends to Covid in the past few months. I expect you may have too. So the fear seems more real than imagined. But I will report that Carol and I feel mostly safe and pretty much cloistered in our home in Charlottesville for the past 9 months. We know we are privileged to be able to lay low and play it safe.
In my professional life as a publisher, I have for over twenty-seven years expressed a year-end message of review, hope, and promise to my readers. This year is no exception. With almost everybody sitting on the edge of their seat attempting to fathom today's morass of intense plague and the ensuing problems that comes with it, it makes sense for us all to stop and take a moment or two of personal reflection and review. Many of us have been forced as never before to challenge our old calculations, personal observations and perhaps even our professional longevity. It seems that what we grew up relying upon as stable and true is just no longer as reliable as it once seemed.
We can’t go back in time to change what has happened, but we can proceed for a more hopeful and better tomorrow. Paraphrasing Omar Khayyam, the pen is in your hands and 2021 is yet to be written. It is now time to write your own future to the best of your abilities. Be creative, be imaginative and be courageous.
History has proven that plagues come and then they go, that business downturns appear when least expected and retreat just the same, that the winter is cold only to be followed by the beauty of a warm summer's day. But the most enduring cycle throughout history is our love of family and friends. Like superheroes, I believe that love is our secret power, and with it we sustain ourselves with the love of family and friends.
The following message was first sent in 1513 A.D. It has become part of my traditional year-end expression of hope and reflection. I have been sharing this poem with my newsletter readership for decades. Every time I read it, I come away with a little more understanding and hope. The plague has intensified my understanding of the poem.
Like the author, I hope that your paths are clear of shadows and that you have the time and sensibilities to take a few moments to really stop and look around you. Most of us work so hard that sometimes we forget the real reasons for our energetic pursuits. In the end, it is our ability to love and share that love that has any real long-lasting meaning.
That being said, I send you all a big safe hug and the hope that you are surrounded by love, family and continued friendship.
I wish you all peace, sensibility, and a joyous and healthy new year
I SALUTE YOU
There is nothing I can give which you have not;
but there is much that, while I
Can not give, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts
Find rest in it today.
No peace lies in the future,
which is not somewhere hidden in this present instant.
The sometime gloom of the world is but a shadow;
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
And so, at this holiday time, I greet you,
With the prayer that for you, now and forever
The days break with peace,
and all shadows flee from your path.
A salutation written to a friend in 1513