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“In times like these it is important to remember there have always been times like these.” — Paul Harvey
New Year’s Eve is a traditional day to take stock of the previous year and anticipate the upcoming year. 2022 was a particularly trying year, and 2023 does not really promise to be much better. For conservatives, 2022 brought a lot of disappointments. Some are calling it the Worst Year Ever, and claiming we are all in a handbasket sliding down to Hell.
Except 2022 was not the Worst Year Ever, at least not for the United States as a whole. Sure it probably was for those living in Kherson or Kharkiv, and for some in the US it was a personal WYE. But every year is someone’s WYE. (My personal WYE was 2018, when I lost two jobs, my wife, father, and father-in-law died, I ended up in the hospital and found myself dead broke. It will be hard to top that, although I suppose it is possible.)
Yes, we can point to the inflation of 2022, the rudderless foreign policy, and the miserable domestic politics of the year in the United States. But worst year ever? Nah. I lived through worse inflation and a worse economy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Was 2022 really worse that 1942, when the US found itself on the losing end of a vast world war? Or 1929-1938, when the stock market collapse (and ill-advised government policies) pitchpoled the US into the misery of the Great Depression? Or how about the late unpleasantness of 1861-65? If you had a time machine, would you trade 2022 or 2023 for one of those years?
Hard times are always with us. Good times are always with us. Often they are intermixed. (For me, personally, 2023 was a good year — a great day job, no financial worries, and a new grandchild. As a whole, and for most people, I realize it kind of stank.) What we can do is focus on what is good in our lives, and do what we can to fix what is bad. (I spent most of 2018 and 2019 at a personal Defcon 1 doing damage control. I never gave up, and as 2019 ended, I had paid off my debts. Even with the annus horribilis of 2020, I ended the year with more money in the bank than I had started that year and in a solid career position.)
Do not spend time and worry over what you cannot control. Look at what you can fix, and concentrate on that. Never give up. It may be time and circumstance will still sweep you away, but it is better to go out trying. As long as you do keep trying, a chance of success remains. Just remember the tale of the king’s horse:
Nasrudin was caught in the act of stealing horses and sentenced to die. Hauled up before the king, he was asked by the Royal Presence: “Is there any reason at all why I shouldn’t have your head off right now?” To which he replied: “Oh, King, live forever! Know that I, the mullah Nasrudin, am the greatest teacher in your kingdom, and it would surely be a waste to kill such a great teacher. So skilled am I that I could even teach your favorite horse to sing, given a year to work on it.” The king was amused, and said: “Very well then, you move into the stable immediately, and if the horse isn’t singing a year from now, we’ll think of something interesting to do with you.”
As he was returning to his cell to pick up his spare rags, his cellmate remonstrated with him: “Now that was really stupid. You know you can’t teach that horse to sing, no matter how long you try.” Nasrudin’s response: “Not at all. I have a year now that I didn’t have before. And a lot of things can happen in a year. The king might die. The horse might die. I might die.
“And, who knows? Maybe the horse will sing.”