A Defining Moment
Updated: Apr 20, 2021
Every generation seems to have a moment that offers an opportunity to question the prevailing paradigm of the times. This is such a moment.
The month of April is here, marking the start of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere) and the conclusion of the Easter and Passover celebrations. For much of the world, the days are getting warmer and longer. Plants are blooming, and animals are coming to life. And with each passing day, we are moving closer to an end to the deadly pandemic and the reopening of society.
There is something in the air for sure. Something beyond the annual seasonal cycle. A felt sense that something is about to be liberated, to be reborn. Every generation seems to have such a moment. A disruption that offers an opportunity to question the prevailing paradigm of the times. The liberation of Europe in 1944 and the end of World War II the following year was such a moment. So too was the political and social unrest of the 1960s, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the tragedy of September 11, 2001.
The Spring of 2021 feels like such a moment. And it is in such moments that we face a fundamental choice – what meaning do we give to the events of our times? Is this the Lost Year, as Time magazine has declared on its latest cover? Or is it the year we discovered what is most important to us? Is this the period where we were imprisoned, denied the freedom to move and travel and be together? Or is it the time we finally realized how much we had taken these freedoms for granted? “Never were we freer than under the German occupation,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre in 1944, reminding us that it isn’t until we are denied our freedom that we truly understand what freedom means.
How you think and speak about your circumstances fundamentally shapes your experience. That doesn’t mean denying the genuine challenges of the past year. But it would be unwise to miss the opportunity to define the experience for yourself – to find an empowering meaning in even the most trying times. The choice to do so, I believe, will have profound ramifications for how this next decade unfolds for you.
For me, the events of the past year have provided the gift of reconnection. To reconnect with myself and with others. To deepen relationships that I may have taken for granted. To begin new friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. And to engage more richly with what’s already and always present.
What do these times mean to you? How do you choose to define them?
To understand what Sartre meant, here’s an excellent Psyche article that explores it in more depth.
Another great quote on the nature of freedom, this time from Maya Angelou: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”
A quote I’ve been pondering this week, hoping that it will continue to rub off on me: “Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.” – Leo Tolstoy