December 28, 2016

Article at Authory

Annus Horribilis

Now that I see that some people on social media are making fun of the hoi polloi, who have been busy shaking their collective fist at 2016, I guess it's time to say something.

Look, I know it is a lot of fun to poke holes in other people's pretensions. (I too have enjoyed a spot of this sport from time to time.) But it's usually a good idea to make certain people are behaving pretentiously before poking at them. So, let's look at the concept of the annus horribilis, okay?

If you look at history, there seem to be portentous years, in which a lot of really bad things are crammed into a short time span. A few months back, I actually did some poking through historical timelines and found that the sixteenth year of a new century tends to have a lot of doom and gloom.

In 1916, it was the first full year of the Armenian genocide. World War I was still going strong. In fact, more than one million soldiers would die in a five-month battle over the last half of the year. The Russian empire was on the verge of falling apart, leading to the Bolshevik Revolution and the assassinations of the imperial family the next year. In a desperate and ultimately failed attempt to forestall that revolution, the year would close with the strange saga of the multiple attempts to assassinate Rasputin, who seemed preternaturally incapable of being killed.

And that was just 1916. The year of 1816 was known as the Year Without a Summer, a result of a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. I could go back further, but I'm depressed enough and think I've made my point.

This year, 2016, hasn't just seen the deaths of a lot of celebrities. It's also been the year of Brexit; the year of the election of a volatile, politically and diplomatically inexperienced, reality TV star as President of the United States; the year of such unimaginable horrors as the mass murder of nearly fifty people in a nightclub; the year of the Zika outbreak, etc., etc., etc. Just about the only unmitigated national joy in the U.S. was that Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs broke a losing streak that stretched over a century (an event many had, for years, been wryly predicting might be a precursor to the End Times).

Are there other bad years in recorded history? Sure. But that does not mean that all of those who are crying out against 2016 are a bunch of privileged hothouse flowers who simply need to grow up. In fact, I'd say that when a lot of people agree on something, they are more likely to be right than the jaded cynics who seem to enjoy dumping in the communal punch bowl.

I will say though that perhaps 2017 will provide a sign of hope. After the annus horribilis of 1916, the Blessed Mother visited three shepherd children with a message of hope and a sign from heaven in 1917. This coming year, 2017, will be the centenary of that visit and of the Miracle of the Sun. God only knows we could use a bit of that light and grace in the year ahead.

(Image: Tree of life etched on tombstone, Pixabay.)