Farewell 2014, year of Ebola, ISIS and purposeless voter anger. May next year be better, for you, for me, for all of us.
Thinking over the year, I find myself amazed at how much of the past year's news was still about the unintended consequences of the War on Terror: ISIS rampaging across northern Iraq, the torture report in America, violent conflict and the slaughter of children in Pakistan. Not since the assassination in Sarajevo has an event of no real significance led to so much purposeless death. Yes, I insist that 9-11 was an event of no significance, a lucky blow by a tiny terrorist faction, their death wish multiplied by airplanes, skyscrapers, and a single security hole now long since filled. The significant event was our panic, and the sinister uses to which that panic was put by Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and their cronies. We, who should be the great force for peace, justice, and order in the world, instead unleashed a decade and more of chaos on the Middle East, staining our own souls with torture and murder along the way.
On the brighter side, new energy technologies continued their amazing progress; if things go on in the next decade as they have over the past one, and there is every reason to believe that they will, wind power, solar power, energy storage and electric vehicles will soon render fossil fuels obsolete for many purposes; the Keystone Pipeline may well be abandoned for financial reasons before we ever decide whether to build it.
Human creativity is everywhere around us. Our machines do things that ought to astonish us more than they do: explore the surface of Mars, land on a comet, take pictures of distant young stars shrouded in clouds of dust, smash apart millions of atoms a second to probe their inner workings. Thanks to our telescopes, our space probes, the labors of our biologists and archaeologists, we can see and understand more of life's wonder than anyone before us.
There are so many exciting new artists in the world that nobody can possibly keep track of them, working in every conceivable style. Television in particular is finally living up to its potential as a vehicle for thoughtful artists to tell great stories; last year a million books were published in English alone.
The world remains, I suppose, as it always has: a place of wonder and horror, creation and destruction, birth and death, pitiless physics and human love. For every victory there is necessarily a defeat; the old must perish to make way for the new, or the pageant that is life would run down into a sad still life. As tiny threads in this vast tapestry we have little control over the design. But we can marvel at it, and revel in the chance we have been given to experience its astonishing beauty, woven from equal parts sorrow and joy.