Looking Forward

Our guest contributor for this first Museletter of the new year is none other than our Dean – a multi-talented performer, teacher, author, and philosopher of magic—Dr. Larry Hass.

Happy New Year to everyone! The year 2021 is in the rear-view mirror, and 2022 lies ahead like a beautiful vista with open horizons. It is time to “clink” those champagne flutes and move ahead with a beginner’s mind.

Many of you know this is my favorite time of year, and that I typically carry out a reflective exercise to help me turn the page. That is, I explore, write, and share with my family, my answers to the following questions:

1. What are my best achievements for the previous year?
2. What are some good everyday behaviors I resolve to do?
3. What are my goals for the year ahead?

I have found this practice, this ritual, to be very affirmational and productive. (You can read more about it HERE.)

Yet, as I engaged in the exercise this year, nearly two years into our global pandemic, a supplementary set of ideas kept surfacing in my mind—three special reminders at this world-historical time. I offer them in the hope that they resonate with you, too.

1. Honor the Wins…and Wounds

Everything is more difficult during a pandemic, from needing to wear a mask in public, to limited access to goods and services, to separation from, and worries about friends and family, to uncertainties around planning…among so many other things. This often means that the wins come harder. What might have previously been “a challenge,” can now feel like dragging Frodo and the Ring up the side of Mount Doom.

So, celebrate those wins! They were harder than they used to be, and that’s an important part of the story. The trials and travails need to be sung and spoken, especially this year. They are essential flavor notes for the 2021 vintage.
And there are also wounds. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t lost something or someone because of this crazy thing. When difficult memories surge up, I try to put my hand on my heart, take a deep breath, and honor the moment. I have found this to be more helpful and healthful than just forging ahead or telling myself everything’s fine.
2. Re-align Our Goals
Human beings are the forward-looking animal; we can’t help but look ahead, make plans, and try our best to fulfill them. Yet, if the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that the need to revise our goals is built into the fabric of things. And you know what? These past two years, we have met that need time and again, and become more resilient through the process.
Indeed, I have come to see that “long-term planning” is a luxury, not a given. And it was a privilege I previously took for granted. This keeps me living a bit “closer to the bone,” and I find it keenly productive to plan that I will need to revise the plan. So, I am definitely setting goals for 2022. But one of those goals is being ready to re-align my goals as needed without stress, regrets, or depression.
3. Cultivate Hope
Some folks say, “Hope is Love,” others call it a desire. Emily Dickinson wrote that it’s “a thing with feathers…that sings the tune…and never stops at all.” I suspect there is truth in each of these, but for this context I take hope to be an elusive human capacity to imaginatively create a forward path or sense of the future, exactly when those things seem foreclosed.
Ordinarily, hope is a reservoir we draw on when needed, but during the pandemic we’ve gone to the well more than usual. Which perhaps means we need to do a bit more to replenish the well.
For me, this happens with some intentional quiet time—shutting off the constantly interrupting noise of modern social-media life. It happens over meals with family and dear friends. It happens by reading meaningful things rather than superficial trash. It happens by getting sufficient sleep and going for walks. Your own list will vary.
But I think what’s true for all of us is that magic fills the tank. Every little “miracle” is a human-created reminder that the world is a surprising place, that through art the impossible is possible, and that feels great. So sure, magic is the art of the impossible, but that very phrase also makes it the art of hope.
So please remember as we turn the page—the world needs your magic. It really does! And you need your magic. It is one of the finest things we can do to cultivate and enlarge our capacity to hope.
Here’s to your Magical New Year! “Clink!”

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