Hey! Welcome! You did it!—you made it to the end of such a long, long year! Congratulations!
Tonight, we will ring in the New Year, welcoming 2021. Now, for the last decade or so, I’ve greeted each new year with excitement at its possibilities: “Next year is going to be so much better than this year,” I said over and over again. And, instead, each year has been as bad, if not worse than the year before. So, I’m not going to jinx it this time. Instead, I am simply greeting 2021 with a “My survival rate for bad years is 100% thus far; if 2021 is less than ideal, I will survive” mindset.
Thanks to the pandemic, we’re all finding new ways to observe our holidays or, at least, we all should be finding new ways to observe our holidays. I suppose, if there is any kind of upside to take away from 2020, it’s that it has forced us given us a chance to reevaluate a lot of things we’ve taken for granted and measures that can be taken to make the world more accessible—I’m looking at you, employers who just suddenly have the means to have folks work remotely, after denying disabled folks that level of accessibility for ages. Many of us have adapted our traditions for holidays and ways to socialize with friends—even the way we shop for groceries! So, maybe it is also time to take another look at the ways we celebrate New Year’s too.
Photo credit: S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay
I live in the South. I have, with rare exception, always lived in rural areas or in the South or in rural areas in the South. This invariably means that New Year’s is a noisy affair: neighbors and other nearby residents have a habit of lighting fireworks of varying legality and/or firing guns, also possibly of varying legality. In many cases, even if perfectly legal, I’d still think both are inadvisable given the extent to which is seems to be the societal norm that we spend the night leading up to midnight drinking at parties. (Seriously, y’all: don’t mess with firearms or fireworks when you’ve been drinking.) So, given how all the noise rattles me and my anxiety, the idea of spending the hour from 11:30 PM on New Year’s Eve to 12:30 AM on New Year’s Day in quiet meditation sounds awfully appealing—so appealing that I wanted to write about it, to spread the good word of sssshhhhhhhhhh. But, y’all, I found some …interesting information as I was preparing to write this.
First, let’s talk about the Universal Hour of Peace itself. Started by Dr. Barbara Condron, the Universal Hour of Peace was first observed on October 24, 1995, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. Then it was moved, first, to noon on New Year’s Day and, then, to the hour straddling the ringing in of the new year. Its observation on New Year’s is meant to usher in each new year with peaceful intention, with a commitment to living in peace for the coming year. Folks looking to participate in the Hour of Peace are encouraged to meditate, attend a candlelight vigil (a virtual one this year, please), join a prayer circle (again, Zoom is a helpful tool, y’all), participate in reflective activities like writing, and so on. The focal point of the hour is reading The Universal Peace Covenant at midnight (the Covenant is also available in 12 other languages).
While there is language within the Covenant that hits me a little uncomfortably—there’s a little too much focus on individual responsibility rather than societal responsibility than I am comfortable giving my full-throated endorsement—it is, on the whole, a pretty okay set of aspirations. I mean, honestly, who doesn’t want peace? Okay, well, who—aside from those benefiting from corporate entanglement in war-making—doesn’t want peace? And I do think that we each share a piece of the responsibility for making peace achievable and lasting. That said, I do find myself pulling away from The Universal Peace Covenant after learning more about the group to which the woman, Dr. Barbara Condron, behind the Universal Hour of Peace and the Covenant belongs.
There is not a lot of information about the School of Metaphysics that isn’t published by the School of Metaphysics. I can tell you that it is not an accredited school but is rather an educational nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status. This is an important piece of information because the founder of the Universal Hour of Peace, Dr. Barbara Condron, earned her doctoral degree from the School of Metaphysics. In fact, all of the signatories of the Covenant with the honorific “Dr.” before their name earn that doctorate from the School of Metaphysics. Moreover, what discussions I’ve seen online about the School of Metaphysics usually include some variant of the question, “are they a school or are they a cult?” And the responses to that question seem to mostly fall into two categories, “well, it’s weird but mostly harmless” and “yeah, it’s a cult,” with the occasional “it depends on which branch” thrown in for flavor. So, that’s fun.
Now, here’s why I went ahead and wrote this: I still think the Universal Hour of Peace is a good idea, just maybe not the one proposed by the School of Metaphysics. I think that, just like we’ve done with so many other things in 2020, we can take the idea and adapt it. One of the biggest components to building and maintaining peace, whether on an intrapersonal or international scale, is access to resources. If you feel that the biggest impact you can make starts within yourself and making sure you have the emotional resources to make a positive impact on the world, take that hour—or any hour on New Year’s Eve or Day—and meditate, reflect on your needs and which ones are or are not being met, or simply rest. For those of us who feel we need to find an external starting point, maybe take that hour to find out about organizations in your community working to ensure everyone has access to food, shelter, water, education, clothes, etc.—and I’m not just talking about a place you can donate your old clothes, look for mutual aid and community action networks—and see how you can get involved. If you are financially able, find and donate to organizations whose missions resonate with you and are doing that work on a national scale, like Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, Mutual Aid USA, or on a global scale—Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, Amnesty International, etc.
As we welcome 2021, for better or for worse—hopefully, for better but hope for the best, plan for the worse, y’know?—let’s take an hour to dedicate ourselves to improving the world around us, to working in ways that will engender peace. Just, maybe we avoid a possible-cult about it, though, right? Okay. Good talk.
Photo credit: Sincerely Media on Unsplash
Happy New Year! And as always, please, wash your hands and keep social distancing so that we can ensure as many folks as possible will be here to ring 2022 in next year.