We marched lightly into the wilderness. We brushed past brambles lining the periphery, over fallen logs without care. We dangled plastic compasses and sacks packed with sandwiches and fruits. We sang as we walked. The trees grew thick and the night pressed gently down and we walked and we walked.
Then our guides began to depart us. They left us one-by-one.
First, Bowie. Alien-king more human than any of us. Who saw all the world at once from his sweet, cloud-spun perch. Who somehow in the moments we felt most weird, wrong, unfit for this big, churning world, sang us that perfect song and made it alright. Because he knew our hearts. Knew how to rouse the reluctant, rough-hewn hero in each of us. (1/10/16. Our Heart.)
Then Prince, that sleek creature. So hyper-alive and in a constant state of love with everything and everyone so profound his prurience felt romantic, transcendent. Strutting across our imaginations, erotic, audacious, daring us to feel, feel so huge it burst from our skin and our lips. Giving us that look. (4/2/16. Our Spirit.)
The Boxer was next. Brilliant in his graceful fury, virtuoso of rhythm and fist. Shape-shifting goliath whose super-sized self was uncontainable by any single name or doctrine or dogma. Consummate child who never grew fearful with age, never adjusted his vision to fit a flawed world. Never could be anything but The Greatest. (6/3/16. Our Courage.)
And then the one who best knew Night. Eli Wiesel, voice out of ashes, whose very existence proffered hope when, faced with the vast brutality of our past, our most savage selves, we asked the impossible questions. Tried to believe in good, nonetheless — in something, G-d or mud or man. Never Forget, he said. Never Again. We repeated your words like a mantra, sweet Witness, but can they save us from ourselves? (7/2/16. Our Conscience.)
How did we get so lost? Our candle in the night, the one who whispered to us when we were most alone: yes, you’re doomed. But so am I. And isn’t doom a delicious friend? Leonard Cohen, who just when we thought it could get any darker, dared us to kill the flame. Ha, but he’d seen all of history back-and-forth-and-back-again and knew the way out. Knew it was as simple as staying in love. (11/7/16. Our Soul.)
Of course she was the last one standing, facing down the moonlight in that fateful bra. Badass power-princess, middle-finger matriarch. Self-declared “Joan of Narc,” who in her brave and honest grappling with the Jabbas of the mind was a sane voice in a mad galaxy. Carrie, Leia, laughing in the face of despair, her genuine force and wild wit a stronger shield than any gold-plated, space bikini. (12/27/16. Our Sanity.)
Goodnight, 2016. We came to you so easily, so unprepared. How could we have known? How could we not?
Now it is dark. We are alone. And the only ones left are us.
Listen: all you reluctant heroes, untested champions, silent witnesses, cratered hearts: It’s time. We need you.
All of us asking, what can I do, what should I do? Instead ask, what do I do?
We are the new guides, each responsible for getting so lost; each uniquely prepared to help light our new path, our only path — not back, not home, not to any impossible land of halcyon former Greatness, but forward.
2017 is dark, unknowable, and full of hope. We’re in this together. We’re surrounded by heroes. Let’s walk.