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Where to even begin? These last months have been beyond imagining, and it’s hard to process all that is happening and continues to unfold. I think it’s going to take quite some time to truly make sense of the events of the past year, but reflecting back on 2020, and on this day of the Winter Solstice, a few words come immediately to my mind:

Optimism: That despite the challenges ahead, there is resilience and a wellspring of determination to support economic and social development and recovery, particularly among communities and sectors hardest-hit by the global pandemic.

Longing: To hold hands and be together with friends, family and loved ones. There is long list of hugs to be given.

Anguish and Resolve: At the differential and increasing disparities here in Canada and around the world. To make a difference by giving, working, witnessing, naming and disrupting injustice and inequality.

Hope: That with the arrival of the first shipments and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, we have turned an important corner. That the lessons we’ve learned through this pandemic will result in meaningful, lasting change and growth in building a better future.

Gratitude: To be safe, to be well, to love, and be loved.

The words to one of my favourite holiday songs, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, have never felt more apt. Especially the line “someday soon we all will be together” – we’ve been waiting a long time for that. This song has been recorded by numerous artists, but I think Ella Fitzgerald’s version is the best:

“Someday soon we all will be together

If the fates allow.

Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow,

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

However you celebrate, here’s to a peaceful, restful and joyful holiday season and a Happy New Year filled with love, good health, positive change, hope, and joy.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

This past week, I’ve been thinking about a powerful interview I heard on November 29 on CBC Radio’s The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay. Her conversation with Philosophy Professor Carlos Alberto Sánchez seemed to perfectly encapsulate a lived experience during these past nine months, through the word “zozobra”: framed as “the oscillation between hope and hopelessness”. This resonated strongly, in how one moment I might find myself feeling very hopeful (e.g. hearing reports of progress in vaccine research trials, approvals and production); and then the next hour/day/moment, truth be told, feeling kind of hopeless (“Will this ever end?!?”). The ‘oscillation of hope’ (in Dr. Sánchez’s words) can be deeply disorienting as we cycle through these extremes and points in between.

In the seven-minute interview, Dr. Sánchez talks about our current state of uncertainty and disorientation though this shared experience of ‘oscillation of hope’. He notes that we can learn from Mexican philosophy (and specifically names the work of philosopher Emilio Uranga), in recognizing common suffering – and using this recognition to develop “bonds of love and common struggle”. Dr. Sánchez contests Western notions of radical individualism, and how this contributes to the sense of isolation that so many have been experiencing. The importance of community, relationships, connectedness, are meaningful and necessary. The interview is worth a listen! Check out this link in the text below, and scroll approx. half way down the page:

Interview Link: Word Processing: Zozobra
The various crises of our day have left many of us feeling anxious, disoriented and uncertain about the ground we stand on. Carlos Alberto Sanchez, professor of philosophy at San Jose State University, says Mexican philosophy has a concept to describe how we’re all feeling: “zozobra”. In the latest installment of our ongoing language segment Word Processing, he breaks down the meaning of “zozobra”, its Mexican roots and universal relevance, and how it can help us get through a turbulent time.

Now I am by no means a student of philosophy, but I can’t help feeling that philosophy has – and will continue to have – much to teach us in making sense of an experience that is so hard to make sense of. Finding hope and meaning are deeply human needs, and the voices of educators, scholars, activists and artists can offer pathways into hope and community.

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