It’s been three years since I last composed a Top Things Luke Experienced This Year list (TTLETY, pronounced Total Eddie). I’d meant for it to become an annual tradition, but I managed to miss the past two years. Given my inconsistency, perhaps it’s better I commit to an Olympic games cycle, minus or plus a year.
This is a hard one to put together. I imagine you know why. You’re thinking, 2020 was one long shit show. What sort of “top list” do you expect to pull from that mess?
Stay tuned, friends. I’m about to compose a list even the most jaded can appreciate. With all the bad press 2020 has received, it’s easy to forget that the events of the past year happened exactly as they were always going to happen. There is no use fighting it or complaining about it. In a way most will fail to understand, 2020 has been perfect. Before the list, allow me to prime the pump with a couple salient observations about this most besmirched of years.
Observation one: Death. There’s been more talk of death this year than any I can remember, and that’s saying something, because ours is a culture obsessed with death. Our stories, even the most hopeful among them, are steeped in death. One can hardly think of a Disney branded tale that isn’t chilled by death’s cold shadow. Mufasa, dead. Bambi’s mother, dead. All of Nemo’s brothers and sisters, dead. Iron Man, Black Widow, Loki: dead, dead, DEAD!
Death is a marvel to us; we are simultaneously captivated and terrified by it. Folks of my generation (Gen-X) like to acclaim our resiliency, our ability to navigate life with one foot in the old world and one in the new, but 2020 has demonstrated our resiliency wilts like a sun-starved geranium under rumors of death. I suppose it’s because, in comparison to our forerunners, we’ve not been exposed to a whole lot of death. Or we’ve just failed to notice it.
This morning I took my pug for a walk. It was a beautiful morning, crisp and sunny, my favorite kind of day. A precious moment, just me and my pug, and all around us was death. The corpses of the grass squished beneath our feet, casualties of the winter frost and rain showers. The earth worms partied like spring breakers on a Florida beach in the miasma of all that death. A car puttered past, ghosts of the dead wisping from its tailpipe. And the sun was there as always, a flaming beacon of death, giving her life away for our benefit.
With all this death around us, you’d think we’d be accustomed to it, even numb to it, and perhaps we are. Except when it comes to me. Sure, everything must die; that’s axiomatic, but not me! I must be the exception. While I’m at it, I’d like a few others to be exempted from the death transaction––my family, a few of my favorite musicians, and the little pug I mentioned earlier.
There are always lists composed this time of year––best films of the year, top songs of the year, best snack foods of the year––list after list after list. It seems inevitable that many will fixate on a list titled something along the lines of: Top Causes of Death. What will it be, I wonder? I will spare you the suspense. Though most things in this world are more complicated than we give them credit for, this bit of data is not. The number one cause of death in 2020 is the same as it’s been since the beginning of Everything. The incessant killer stands alone, undefeated over billions of years: It is Life. They come as a pair, Death and Life; you can’t have one without the other, and it’s a good thing, because if there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that human beings suck at sitting around for long periods of time with nothing to do. We need an ending to look forward to.
Which brings me to my second observation: Religion. All this sitting around with nothing to do, all this worry about death appears to have increased our human propensity to embrace religion. Religion is one of those words that causes many to bristle. I was raised in a conservative Christian home and was taught the very religious types were the ones who killed Jesus, so it was always preferable to describe our religious practice as Faith and to say things like, “It’s a relationship, not a religion.” Likewise, if you’re an atheist or agnostic, the last thing you ever want to be pegged as is a religious person.
Personally, I have no problem with religion; it can be a helpful tool for navigating a world that is often hard and confusing. But 2020 has brought out religion’s ugly dogmatic side. Dogma has a way of turning everything it touches to shit. Teach a conservative Christian to be dogmatic and you get an angry sanctimonious asshole. Sprinkle some dogma on a secular humanist, and you get a spiteful person firing the words science and data from raging lips, wishing death upon anybody who allows their face covering to sag too low.
The year has reminded me to avoid dogma at all cost. Whatever I feel about anything––whether God or Death or politics or whether it’s okay to use Q-tips to clean the insides of my ears––I consider I might be wrong. Now, there’s a statement we all could afford to say to ourselves before posting our opinions on the internet: I could be wrong.
Enough with the observations. Time for Total Eddie list, 2020 edition. Here are my Top Things, in no particular order.
Coffee – Maybe I’ve just learned to appreciate it more lately, but I have enjoyed some mind blowing great coffees this year. Sometimes at night, I think, I can’t wait to go to bed so I can wake up and drink that first cup of coffee. Is there anything better?
Chocolate – I discovered Bark Thins. When I bite into a blueberry quinoa Bark Thin, it’s impossible not to believe there is a divine being in the universe who loves me very much.
Floating – If you don’t know what a sensory deprivation float is, Google it and wonder why in the world anyone would put it on his favorite things list. I will only say, if you’re looking for something that’s the precise opposite of this noisy, flashy, contentious, shout each other down world we’re in, floating might just be the antidote you’re looking for.
CBD oil – Tastes nasty. Helps me sleep. I used to get one or two decent nights sleep a month. Since discovering this gross tonic, I get three or four a week.
Paddle boarding – Paddle board yoga made my Total Eddie list three years ago. Thanks to Covid, there were no yoga classes in 2020, which inspired Ms Christmas to give me a paddle board for my birthday. I told her I’m too busy and would never have time to get out on the water, but as you likely know, there are some activities that touch your soul so well, you find a way to partake in them. Each time I paddle board (and I have paddled many times now), I’m reminded that 2020 is only a number, that Life is both precious and fleeting, and there is nothing at all to worry about.
Family – Family is not only a favorite thing, but one for which I am most fortunate. 2020 was hard on families. Divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse––all up in 2020. For the three humans I have the privilege of sharing space with, I am truly thankful.
Samuel––my car crazy, busy body, social butterfly. A pandemic denied you many of your favorite things this past year, but you persevered and are stronger for it. And you are strong, more than most anyone I know.
Isaac––hilarious, scary smart, and my favorite person to watch a good fantasy show with (when I can persuade you to :). The year exhausted your considerable appetite for remaining ensconced in the house, and you’ve outgrown all your outside clothes without us even realizing, but here you are, ready to take on another year, and now you have a kayak to relieve you of that occasional bout of cabin fever. Can’t wait to paddle with you!
Ms Christmas––If there’s a Total Eddie 2020 person of the year, you’re the one. Many are worried for the future of their children due to the pandemic-induced restrictions, but thanks to you, we need not worry. While many households are beset with anger and bickering, the nearly inevitable symptom of being cooped up with the same people for too long, our house is blessed with laughter. You are patient, wise, funny, talented and my 2020 hero.
That’s all, folks. Look for my next list in three years. Or whenever I get around to it…
Categories: awards, Life, life events, mystic, religion, spiritual themes, Uncategorized, writing
Re religion it’s interesting how throughout these deadly pandemic days religion has been largely irrelevant. Happy New Year anyway.
I suppose it depends on how sharply one defines the word religion. Many times I’ve been struck by the fervor with which the words “science and data” have been spoken and received. If you replaced them with “power of the blood”, I could scarcely tell the difference between a Washington State governor’s press conference and a evangelical revival meeting. Despite our best efforts, I doubt humanity will ever escape the magnetic pull of religion. It may change names, but it will always be here.
Happy New Year to you, my friend. All the best!
This is awesome, Luke. From the humor to the deeply profound, as always you leave me with lots to reflect upon. I look forward to future lists … whenever they may come!