Mind Matters — It’s a New Year

What is it about time and moving into a “new year?” For me, it is when I think about the past and wonder how the future may be different. There is a saying, I think, that we can make the future different if we make the present different. In other words, for change to happen we need to take action and start the process in the “now.” Part of that process maybe simply contemplating, dreaming, imagining a better future. Before a house is built, there is an idea and then an image and a blueprint. Same for future plans whether they be for the planet or the individual. We can be guided by our visions of change and growth.

In the last column, I wrote about the World War I Christmas truce of 1914 that occurred one hundred years ago. The further realization of a lasting peace was thwarted by the powers that be. Nevertheless, the desire for peace did well up in the hearts of those men in the trenches, and I believe the glowing embers of that desire remain warm within all our hearts, somewhere deep down.

Less remote to me and more in the realm of my own personal experience is considering my own past. I’ve just joined a women’s choir, Anna Crusis, which will celebrate its fortieth anniversary this year. The question arose among the members as to what 1974-75 was like for women.

It actually wasn’t very good. I remember being told I wouldn’t get the raise or the promotion because my male colleague needed it more. In all aspects, suffice it to say, this had nothing to do with my competence versus his. Women couldn’t apply for their own credit cards or get a mortgage. Constantly sexualized and objectified, heterosexual women were demeaned. The plight of lesbian women was even worse. Of course, the plight of gay men was no better.

That was the 1970’s, which, in hindsight, although a narrow minded and prejudicial world it was, was still light years beyond the 1950’s—which brings me to the topic of Alan Turing, who during World War II was the genius of the British Intelligence Agency, the Bletchley Circle, who broke the Enigma code of the Germans. Now there is a film, The Imitation Game, about his work. While I have yet to see the movie that depicts him as the hero he was, I have seen the documentary, Codebreaker, about his life in post-war England.

Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who blazed the path to computers and phones as we know them, was a man who probably suffered Aspergers and who was gay. Naively truthful in the midst of a bigoted and constricted British society (that was not unlike the U.S.) with brutal laws against the practice of homosexuality, Turing was arrested for his fraternizing with men and was given the “choice” of prison or hormonal castration. He “chose” the latter which destroyed his body and his mind. How different, one may ask, is this punishment from Hitler’s regime of likewise medical manipulation of those it deemed “defective” for dint of difference? In 1952, Turing committed suicide.

1914, 1952, 1974; there are many times before and after these markers that indicate how unconscious and brutal we have been, or how conscious and connected we can be.

The choice is for each one of us to make. Do we choose to be on the side of the growth of human consciousness or do we choose to fear change and grasp onto what we thought was right only because it’s the only thing we ever knew. Consider slavery: Even something that had been around for two thousand years doesn’t make it moral.

Question yourself and what notions you might consider changing in the New Year. What have you already changed?