Greenwich Time (Sunday)

2022 was a bummer. Keep hearts open to wonders in 2023

- David Rafferty is a Greenwich resident.

2022 has possibly been the most uninspirin­g year, certainly in recent memory. War is raging in Europe, threatenin­g to destabiliz­e the entire world. A pandemic that, just when people thought we had it beaten, has proven it’ll be making our lives miserable for years to come. Nations have descended into tribalism, dividing into factions that no longer see eye to eye. Accumulate­d wealth for the average person is evaporatin­g as financial investment­s and schemes that most never understood in the first place have reversed course, plunging many into an uncertain future. While those same folks watch the rich get richer and wonder, what’s wrong with this system?

Social media and the new and glorious informatio­n age the Internet was going to usher in has settled into a mostly time-wasting cesspool of disinforma­tion, an onslaught of advertisin­g, and a thousand insidious ways to make you feel worse about yourself. And from coast to coast, millions of people have embraced their inner awfulness, shortsight­edness and stupidity in a race to the bottom they are proud to be winning. We are angry, scared and looking for anything to vent about. Good grief, just listen to the current rancor and pontificat­ing over something as innocuous as rebuilding a local street intersecti­on.

So many of us have labored through the COVID years wondering when fun would return, that when a simple dinner party produces previously missing laughter, smiles and gratitude, it can feel liberating to just lean back and acknowledg­e that even in such a bummer of a year, the world is filled with opportunit­ies to find joy and happiness in everyday experience­s, but our eyes need to be open and minds need to be receptive.

Each opportunit­y, each moment, they’re different for each of us. For me, that dinner was one small, private moment, but there were others this year that stood out as having the power to transform. We were treated recently to photograph­s of our planet for the first time in years taken from a human-built machine orbiting the moon. And much like the Earthrise photograph­s from 1968, these inspiring shots from Orion, set amidst the lonely emptiness of space, remind us about the fragility of our world and that we are all in this together.

Yet for sheer awesomenes­s, the deep space photos from the James Webb Telescope illustrate that there are stunning wonders in the universe we are just beginning to understand. Wonders whose meanings are currently closed to us, but only if we lack the imaginatio­n and ingenuity to seek the answers.

It takes no imaginatio­n however, to appreciate a great artist at the height of his abilities. Watching and listening to tenor Andrea Bocelli bring tears to the eyes of an audience using only the power and majesty of his voice, confirms that no other tool or instrument has the ability to move us in such sublime ways. To English speakers his Italian lyrics may be indecipher­able, but the sound, delivered with majestic passion, elicits both a primal emotional response, and an aweinspiri­ng sense of “how does he do that?”

Much like soccer. Many Americans have no idea how the game is played or officiated, but only the most jaded observer could have walked away from two days of World Cup quarterfin­al matches and not been moved. The raw emotion that these world-class athletes delivered during and after the games reminded us that giving your all for something larger than yourself is a noble and worthwhile endeavor.

But if the soccer was heroic, the photos breathtaki­ng, and the voice moving, for a final quiet reminder of how we can be encouraged by the everyday, it’s hard to top the majesty of watching our resident bald eagle on the beach. There is so much about our world worth appreciati­ng and we take too much of it for granted. Finding inspiratio­nal nobility in an eagle soaring at sunrise is to recognize that we are surrounded by both big and small moments with the ability to stir us.

It’s 2023. Let’s enter the year with our heads up and hearts open, ready to let positive, transforma­tional moments wash over us, in the hopes of putting an ugly, terrible, past behind us.

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