If you ask ten people what the musical “Rent” is about, you’ll get fifteen answers. It’s about artists, La Boehme, struggling, succeeding, love, AIDS, death, life, giving up, trying again, moving in, moving out, and Idina Menzel before she sang “Let it Go” – but mostly, it’s about a year – and the many ways we can measure it. Here’s a flashback (since the title made you start singing the song anyway):
Minutes may be the way we measure time, but each of us has our own way to measure life. Some measure through the growth chart of their children (then grandchildren) scratched on a wall, others measure it in billable hours. Music lovers remember the year with songs (Shake it off!) and readers mark life with the New York Times Bestseller List (Gone Girl). T.S. Eliot famously measured his life in coffee spoons.
I measure my year, in fact – my life – in words. Happy words, holy words, healing words, hopeful words. When I die, I want a memorial that looks like an old school McDonald’s sign – only with a writing quill instead of a heart-clogging M, and the tagline: “Over 1 million words said.” In my world there is the best word, the right word, and the first word I come up with. I am frequently guilty of accidentally blurting the latter before the former can be found. Sorry about that.
As we pack up 2014 and set up 2015 (Maybe that’s why I don’t like New Year’s very much – it’s a lot like moving) – let’s invest in a few good words.
Courage – Jump, both feet, into the things that scare you the most. Take apart the roadblocks in your life – even if it requires the same care as defusing a bomb. Stand up to the things that bully our world – be they people, systems, powers or simply stupid thoughts.
Justice – Defend the innocent, find the guilty accountable, uphold the rights and responsibilities of citizens, law enforcement, banks, leaders, followers and lovers. Stop howling for blood, start working for good.
Peace – Start with yourself. Start with your heart. Peace isn’t a thing we achieve, like a diploma. It is way that we live, that we see, that we breathe. Take peace out of the “pretty concept” aisle of your internal grocery store and place it in the hardware section – it’s a tool. Own it. Use it. Maintain it. Daily.
Hope – Have hope that is active, not a dream. When you plant a seed in the ground, you can’t dig it up every day to see if it’s growing. You must acknowledge it is currently covered in dirt and hope someday it will grow. You do things – water, nutrients, sunlight – because those are part of hope, too. In time, it will sprout. Don’t just look our dirt encrusted world and shrug. Do the work of hope – water it with generosity, nurture it with wisdom, shine light on what needs to change, and transform it.
Love – Do it.
What is 2015 going to be about? It’s about artists, La Boehme, struggling, succeeding, love, AIDS, death, life, giving up, trying again, moving in, moving out, and Idina Menzel singing “Let it Go” (sorry about that, too). It’s about a year. And a chance for more seasons of love.
Leave the mistakes, the grudges, the late night rallies, the fails, and the past in 2014. Take with you the love, the lessons, and the words.