As we move into 2009, we step ahead looking for what might be, as humans have done for thousands of years. In past generations, others have tried to foresee what might happen by relying on what they knew from the past. That's not a bad idea, but it is not the only way to consider what may or may not be in store for the future.
Another way to look at the possible future is to look at the present. To do that can be very threatening and disturbing for many, because what we see today is an exploding world population and the desire to find new lands. Though populations expand, our little planet does not.
We see around us immense discoveries in science from human genetics and subatomic particles to an incredibly huge and diverse universe. It reminds me of my first entrance into the Internet. I had the feeling that I was stepping into a huge library with resources of information that I had never before imagined. Now, many people around the world use the Internet daily to search for other ideas, documents and articles.
It is not just another new year, it is a whole new world that we live in. People now question the history, religions, philosophies, values, traditions and all that has been passed on to us from our ancestors. It is no wonder that many people cannot keep up with the current events, leading to anxiety.
Fear is one thing, anxiety is something else. Fear is knowing that when I walk home through the woods at night a bear is lurking nearby. Anxiety is worrying about the possibility there "might" be an angry bear somewhere along my trail if I were to walk in the woods. That's why it feels nice to know that as I walk that trail, there is someone beside me, knowing that we're in this together, and together we can make it and if need be, help each other.
As an anthropologist and historian, as I look at religions, beliefs, values and traditions around the world, there is one thing that stands out: As humans we have hope for a better future, a new year. Yes, religious, political and special interests have used that undying hope to persuade people to go to war, kill others, subjugate and enslave populations, but maybe this year, or it may take many years, we can make just one step further in human history.
Maybe, with a new governmental administration, an increased awareness of the world and environment around us, realizing what is truly happening - as our ancestors did - we might come together, hold hands and say, "Let's not be anxious. Let's walk through this together. We're going to make it. We've done it for countless generations. We are survivors."
As I read daily blogs on the Internet, I am dismayed at the anger, animosity, the ignorance and lack of information people have expressed. Everyone seems to want to attack everyone else. It seems that many just want to be heard, no matter what they say. That is self-destructive. This way of thinking could lead to the end of humanity.
In the new year of 2009, I certainly hope that more of us come to understand that we have different beliefs, different religions, different histories and different views, but we are all survivors in a little lifeboat that we call planet Earth. If we don't find a way to survive together, we're not going to survive as a species. We need to walk hand in hand together, through the woods of anxiety, trying to reconcile our differences.
Years ago, someone pointed out to me that we have two ears and one mouth. Perhaps that is a message from our past, or Creator, or genes, or whatever. Perhaps it's so we may listen and learn twice as much as we say.
Wally Olson is a resident of Auke Bay.