What Did We Find Useful Last Year? Where are We Headed Next Year?

It’s the End of One Year, the Beginning of Another. What Do We See in Each Direction?

I have bad news and good news. The bad news, of a sort, is that this is a pretty long post. BUT WAIT. The good news is that it is made up of a lot of very short snippets and links. Trust me – it’s an easy read from which you can pick and choose where you may wish to linger. It’s my hope you will find some nooks and crannies you would like to revisit or think about anew.

The End of a Year

It is that time of year. Everyone with a pen and the yin to publish lists the 20 Best/Worst something or other of the past year. I have to admit that at one time I thought that was a bit of a gimmick. It seemed a way to publish an article without doing any work. Just recap what happened or what was written earlier. Easy, right?

Now that I am one of those scribes, I see the error of my earlier musings. There is value in looking back over the recent past and doing a bit or a review. This blog has now generated close to 200 posts (Relax. I am NOT going to review them all; not even a dozen of them). About half of those 200 were developed over this calendar year. I have tried to be varied, if nothing else. A large proportion of what we talk about in this space is related to politics and social justice issues. But I have also included large doses of other worlds as well. Science, technology, medicine, social commentary, and humor, and other things made frequent appearances.

I have enjoyed your responses to these various posts. Many of you send emails, a few brave souls post comments on the blog (for which I am eternally grateful. It’s nice to for readers to see thoughts other than mine). So, looking back over the year, I have called out 10 posts. They either resonated with me, with you, or with both of us as especially worthy of attention. I hope you agree, but if you have another you feel should be on that short list, feel free to let us know.

The 10 referenced below may or may not be “the best of the year” and they vary in how much response you gave to them. So how were they chosen for this list? To me, a written page is like a piece of handcrafted wood. It has a personality, a texture, a feel to it that either resonates with you or does not.

I am at least satisfied with everything published this year. I would not have published something otherwise. But in reviewing the year, these 10 brought back that feeling of pleasure and pride. They felt right in my head and in my hand. I hope you liked them. Feel free to hit the link to revisit any or all.

Here Is My “Hit Parade” for 2019, in Chronological Order
  1. What Are We Reading? Tips for Finding the Good Stuff – January 2019. It is a major challenge of our times to find and discern good material to read. We are awash in offerings of varying quality and merit. I set out some time ago to find and use the best tools to help me sort through it all and make best use of my time and brain cells. This post laid out the results, at this point. The list will change from time to time, but for now, this serves me well. https://agentsofreason.com/what-are-we-read…g-the-good-stuff/
  2. Sometimes Modern Medicine Really is Miraculous – Feb 2019. We had quite a few posts on modern medicine. We focused less on our troubled delivery systems and more on the magic of good science and dedicated people. Sometimes we miss the miracles in our midst. https://agentsofreason.com/sometimes-modern…ly-is-miraculous/
  3. Welcome to My Precinct, County, District, etc. – March 2019. As we approach the critical election year of 2020, this is relevant. We should be reminded, as this post does, that there are a lot of good people out there. They are working hard to save and improve our democracy. This is about community as much as it is about politics. https://agentsofreason.com/welcome-to-my-pr…nty-district-etc/
  4. “I Think That I Shall Never See…” – April 2019. I have done several posts about nature. I plan to do many more. But this one declares my truest passion – trees. They are arguably the most remarkable and beautiful things on this planet. I never tire of looking at them, reading about them, and especially, being surrounded by them. https://agentsofreason.com/i-think-that-i-shall-never-see/
  5. D Day – The Power of Planning, Commitment, and Courage – June 2019. D Day in WW II was the perfect example of bigger than life events that changed the world forever. Equally important, it did so with countless examples of small things done right, and good luck. Especially, it happened with people rising to the occasion beyond all reasonable expectations. It is history at its best, and military history at its very best. https://agentsofreason.com/d-day-the-power-…ment-and-courage/
  6. What Do Baseball and Japanese Tea Ceremonies Have in Common? – July 2019. I delight in finding connections among seemingly completely disparate things. Such was the connection between sports and culture described in this post. The concept literally came to me as I watched a baseball game, beer and hot dog in hand. You gave me some of the most delightful comments and emails of the year for this one. Thank you. https://agentsofreason.com/what-do-baseball…s-have-in-common/
  7. Carl Sandburg Was Right- We Need Loneliness and Wilderness – August 2019. Posts are like children in that it generally is not healthy to choose any as “favorites.” But this one comes close. It is a truth I rediscovered this year, to the great enrichment of my life. Just about all of us spend too little time in splendid isolation and quiet. More of this for me, please. We need the nourishment and clarity such time provides. If I go long without it, I hunger for it. Not that I don’t like the rest of you…. https://agentsofreason.com/carl-sandburg-wa…s-and-wilderness/
  8. Words are Magic. Writers are Wizards – August 2019. Our species has any impact for good and eveil on the world, at scales large and small. It is through the power of words that we accomplish, document, and pass it onwards. The well-crafted word has the power to motivate, to enlighten, to bring tears and laughter. The well-crafted word also has the power to save the world or to destroy it. Such power is in our careless hands. https://agentsofreason.com/words-are-magic-…ters-are-wizards/
  9. Random Thoughts from a Mind Adrift – September 2019 – You would likely be amazed at the files I keep of good things read or heard about somewhere. Most are set aside for a time I can call them up and share them with you. Some are just so good in some way that I want to visit them again from time to time. This post sort of reflects my mental process on such things. It is not always an orderly world out there, nor does it have to be. At any given time, my mind goes from the tiny to the galactic, from the ridiculous to the sublime, from the hilarious to deadly serious. Posts like this one are the result. Welcome to my world.https://agentsofreason.com/random-thoughts-from-a-mind-adrift/
  10. The Zen of Shaving: Mindfulness Meets Facial Hair – November 2019. This one literally popped up out of nowhere but generated some delightful emails and comments. Again, thank you. This post was a reminder of the importance of doing anything, large of small, right. It is also a reminder of the small joys we can give ourselves in everyday life. Not a bad thing to remember. https://agentsofreason.com/the-zen-of-shavi…eets-facial-hair/

What is Ahead for Our Country, Our World?

As for the future, I offer a very short list of modest hopes for the coming year. Some are surely possible while others seem an almost desperate hope against the odds. I would love to hear what is on your short list of hope for next year.

  1. America Begins to Heal. Our country is as divided as one can imagine. A vulgar coarseness runs through our politics and our society. May we turn a new page in November and begin the long, difficult road back to being the America the world needs. It will be a long journey, and not a sure thing. But let us hope we at least begin, now.
  2. The Demonstrators Win. Over the last couple of years, right wing and xenophobic dictators have been on the rise. But we saw the push back in dozens of places in 2019. People are standing up with remarkable courage. May their efforts begin to turn the tide in 2020. In some places, they have already slowed the downward spiral of politics in their nation. To stand up as people have in Russia, Iran, and China show the most remarkable courage and determination.
  3. Science and Education are Back. How is it that much of our country, and at least one political party, has turned its back on science and education? This ranks among our greatest tragedies. It will take years to restore the balance; may we continue that fight in earnest next year. This cannot stand and must be confronted, at every level. (I am talking to you, local communities and school boards)
  4. Medicine Continues Its Amazing March. We have talked often about breakthroughs in medicine. Think about Crispr technology, artificial intelligence and super computers, and similar stories. Lost in the noise is frequent news of important steps and the occasional break through. Diseases that once decimated our species are now gone. Next up? Perhaps defeating more forms of cancer, malaria, dementia. It we don’t destroy our planet first, we may yet defeat disease as a major arbiter of life.
  5. We Learn to Connect the Dots. It seems that the older I get, the more I see the connections between justabout everything. It is a delight to see these connections reveal themselves. Life itself, I am coming to appreciate, is like a giant web. Tug one place, something good or bad happens someplace else. This often happens in the most remote and unimaginable way. Science has long had the holy grail of the Unified Theory of Everything. So too is such a concept valid for all of life. May we all appreciate that understanding. May we always be on the hunt for the unseen connective tissue.

Moving On

That is more than enough for one end of the year diatribe. Happy New Year to all. Be well, stay curious, be understanding, but be above all persistent. We all have work to do. Unborn generations are counting on us. May we be up to it.

Bill Clontz, Founder, Agents of Reason         Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:

(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.

(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts (https://agentsofreason.com). Let’s grow our circle.


1 reply to What Did We Find Useful Last Year? Where are We Headed Next Year?

  1. Thank you for always keeping it real especially in these times of media frenzy.

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