Toward the end of every year, my mother comments on the prospects for the coming year: According to her, odd-numbered years bode less well than even. Periodically during 2019, she would echo the refrain; 2020, in her opinion, promised better times than our family had in 2019.
We eagerly anticipated the clarity that seemed metaphorically inherent in a “Vision for 2020”: As a family, our 2019 saw uncertainty, tunnel vision, and an ongoing inability to make clear decisions. If only 2020 would make good on the promise of clear-sightedness and an easing of continual strain…
And then the Year of Clarity began. With it came the energy of a Four Year (2+0+2+0). Following is the introduction that I wrote in my New Year’s piece:
“In numerology, 2020 is a Four Year. The number four signifies the concretization of whatever ideas, plans, or intentions have been in the works. The new year will be a time when we begin to see the material and spiritual culmination of all that we have been working toward; praying for; and meditating upon. … [Today’s] practice breaks any chains or blocks that may be holding you back from ‘solidifying’ goals or dreams.”
At the time, I viewed the liberation from “chains and blocks” as the freeing that our family had sorely been missing: We needed to smooth out the road ahead, to forge a clear direction, and to stay focused on a firm decision. What I now see—with stunning clarity—is that 2020 has presented the whole of humanity with an opportunity to dismantle sociocultural prisons of prejudicial patterns and perspectives.
First, the COVID-19 pandemic knocked us to our knees, forcing each of us to recognize the most base and most enlightened aspects of ourselves. In the midst of disease and death, fear struck a deep chord; resilience and kindness, however, rose to the fore. Some flailed and refused to alter their ways; most, though, buckled down and gained strength by allowing vulnerability to be a unifying factor.
Then, George Floyd’s horrible killing by a police officer spurred fierce, yet mostly nonviolent and united protests over the tyranny of racism in America. The “concretization of intentions that have been in the works,” and that which “we have been working toward; praying for; and meditating upon”: When I wrote those words, I did not imagine that they would point to the centuries-old race wars in this country; I did not know that 2020 would so clearly highlight violence and discrimination against people of color, especially with regard to black Americans.
Perhaps it was only into the environment of resolve and compassion borne of the pandemic that the outrage and uprisings surrounding Floyd’s murder could have taken ahold with what seems to be a uniquely powerful force. For it is not as if America has never wrangled with racial inequality before: Even when all states were legally “emancipated,” racial discrimination and hate crimes continued. Despite Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, potent oratories and activism of decades ago, we as a nation settled into complacency: Racism festered as it always has. When brought into the spotlight–often in connection with police conduct– outcry would pour forth; then, within a week or two of news cycles, the voices of dissent were somehow muted and dismissed by non-black Americans.
But a virus forced all of us to recognize our shared vulnerability as physical beings. COVID-19 threw a net of humility and anxiety over our country. In order to come out from under, everyone needed to observe unsettling safeguards with intense discipline. Yet the restrictions unintentionally created the grounds for unity: Physical distancing, masking, and self-isolation applied to all; our behavior affected ourselves and everyone around us.
So, when George Floyd was killed, our psyches were already in a place of unprecedented awareness, compassion, and resolve. The time was–and is–ripe to respond with the same unrelenting discipline as we have to the virus: This war, however, is the Pandemic of Prejudice. In order to ensure its resolution in the form of deep, wide, and permanent change, our minds, hearts, and eyes need to remain open.
For tomorrow’s Silent Sunday: Now that we know what 2020 had in store for us all along, it seems prudent to offer a practice geared toward the Liver. With the organ system’s associated sense of sight, and its emotional tendency to anger when imbalanced, to stimulate and balance the Liver creates focused determination and calm perseverance. With these qualities flowing smoothly and strongly, we can work to “solidify the goal and dream” of less ignorance and cruelty, and a more just future.