“Happy New Year!” That greeting will be said and heard for at least the first couple of weeks as a new year gets under way. I have to say at the outset that celebrating New Years has always boggled my mind. Why celebrate it? I can understand religious holidays. I can understand Independence Day. But why New Years? I never really saw the point of staying awake until midnight to watch other people on a TV celebrate a big ball coming down. A new year? What is so big about that?
New year’s celebrations can be found around the world happening almost every month. They all share common themes, however. They look back at the past year and look forward to the new year, or, like the two-headed Janus, they look to the past and to the future.
The new calendar happens every year, whether we note it or not, and January 1st of the new year feels just the same as December 31st of the old year. Since our New Year is a purely arbitrary thing, does it have any meaning whatsoever? Yes, it has some. Celebrations, in general, have meaning in that they serve to make a community cohesive. Individuals come together to share an experience, and that bond strengthens the community. New Years fulfills this purpose as well as any other celebration.
We can also imbue New Years with meaning by the practice of reviewing the outgoing year and hoping for the new year to be better. These practices have some value, if done in a balanced way. One doesn’t want to become mired in the past or unrealistic about the future. If we look back on the failures and successes of the past year we can learn something and in learning perhaps avoid the same mistakes.
If we honor our joys and sorrows during the last year — without becoming mired in them — we can have a sense that yes, we lived. We did not just take up space. This year was part of our lives. During this year, we touched other lives.
And then there is the New Year to consider. Will we make changes to our lives? Is 2011 to be our personal Renaissance, or will it be the same old same old? New Years is about looking back and looking forward. It is about taking stock in our lives, both our pasts and our futures. I hope that it is about becoming more tomorrow than we are today.
If you will, indulge me with the opportunity to do this for this congregation, as we look back on 2010 and look forward to 2011.
We had an abrupt move from Lovelace to UUtopia in March. I was not part of this community back then but I have been told that most of what you see in the main island, UUtopia, took a mere 2 weeks to create.
The Sanctuary was moved from its previous location. The Commons, with its Sacred Grounds Coffee Shop, was built. A very large chalice was installed at the top of the mountain to the north, along with Book’s Donkey Hotay.
Etaoin Barcelona installed a faucet into the mountain, apparently having discovered an underground water source. We now have a river and waterfall that originate from that faucet. Lilith Yue put in St. Sophia Chapel, where you can light a candle for a loved one or for a joy or concern. She also created a garden spot to honor many religious beliefs. Pomona Writer moved the Library and has turned it into a stellar example of the educational and cultural resources one can find in SL.
Zyzzy Zarf moved his island, Thoreau, to UUtopia’s eastern shore. Later he created Beachy Keen, a popular spot for dancing and beach activities. And bad jokes.
Sofia and Bobbi Freenote moved their lovely island group, called Nightingale, east of Thoreau.
About mid-year Curtis Rhosar brought his island, Emerson to Thoreau’s northern shore. Unfortunately, he has since left Emerson and we are looking for another person interested in a homestead.
Now we have UUtopia Alcott, our brand new bouncing baby landmass, located west of this Sanctuary. It is a series of small residential islands and an extension of the Commons. We now have several games located there, and on occasion, amusement park rides.
Beacon moved his famous dragons to the far west of Alcott. I love dragons, Beacon, but thank you for moving them. They been eating my flowers! Now if Zyzzy would only discipline his flying whale.
The physical changes have been, because they are physical, the most noticeable aspect of change, but it is the change to our community and our congregation that have been the most exciting. UUtopia has inspired us!
We have used talent to create beauty and fun. Heximer Thane, while still a relative noobie, produced two amazingly detailed houses based on Floridian architecture.
We have used love to create community. We have had deep philosophical debates and have worked to create concrete plans about how to improve our community and the real world at large. If one of us is in need, someone is there to help.
We have used commitment to create a thriving congregation. Our congregation tops 52 people and has begun drawing new attendees. We have, in every measurable respect, created a real congregation in a virtual format.
Zena Silverstar-Carver held a Worldwide Candle-lighting ceremony, a moving tribute to children, both never-born and old, who have passed on. Etaoin Barcelona, talented code-boy that he is, created a memorial area on the hill next to us, where you can commemorate a lost loved one, by lighting a candle.
We have stepped beyond the bounds of our virtual world and have chosen to make real and vital impacts on the quality of life for our fellow man.
We have begun making micro loans to Kiva, which helps third world entrepreneurs build businesses, which in turn enriches their lives and the lives of their communities. To date, we have committed to loaning $500 US as a congregation. Individuals within the congregation have already made $850 US in loans!
We have, through the passion and hard work of Hyacinth Greymoon, become hosts to a transgender information center, which will hopefully provide needed information to TG men and women to transform their lives with a minimum of difficulty.
Because we live in real life, not in second life, we as a community have experienced births and death, new jobs and lost jobs, newfound love and love lost, healing and loss of good health. Through it all, we have supported each other and shown real humanity.
My wish for you, Dear Reader, as this year of 2010 ends, is not that you will have only joys and successes, but that whatever comes your way you will find within yourself acceptance of what is to come, that in doing so you will find happiness in peace regardless of what travails you may have.
May you move forward into the new year, strengthened by the love of your friends and family, wherever you find them.