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As we approach the new year after what has been a difficult 2020 for most of us, I am reminded of a centuries-old Chinese saying: “May you live in interesting times.”
While many people mistakenly assume this to be a blessing of great proportions, it is in fact intended as a curse, the implication being that “interesting” times are those filled with upheaval and strife, and lacking in tranquility.
Though this saying is frequently attributed to Confucius, a 6th-century Chinese philosopher who emphasized justice, balance, and morality, it cannot be accurately traced to any one source. A curse of any kind doesn’t seem particularly well-suited to Confucianism, which is based on the notion of right action, moral development, and the importance of individual responsibility.
But when have times ever been anything less than interesting? As we can probably all agree, life seems inherently designed to present us with trials, hardships, and adversity—so it would seem that there is no escaping a life lived in “interesting” times.
Although we are not able to control when we are born or the circumstances of that era, we certainly can control how we handle the challenges that life hands us.
So, in the face of all of the adversity we’ve been presented with this past year, I have given this somewhat redundant and outdated curse a bit of a facelift, shaping it into a more useful and contemporary blessing that focuses on finding the upside to all that life may hand us.
In my version of this age-old adage, here is what I wish for you:
May you lead an interesting life—a life filled with moments of awe and wonder at the beauty that surrounds you, seeking and always finding the goodness in everything exactly as it is, making up the rules as you go along, recognizing something of value in every person that you meet, being ever kinder than necessary and more compassionate than you thought possible, contributing something of value to the world each day, even if it is as simple as a smile or a kind word, giving boldly from a place of gratitude and with your heart wide open, appreciating the precious and often fleeting time spent with family and friends, able to learn early in life the wisdom in not taking things and people for granted, mindful of the smallest kindnesses you may receive, constantly nurturing an outward sense of adventure and inner sense of purpose, seeing the harmony in all things regardless of the outcome, and ultimately, finding peace and happiness in your heart no matter what life offers you along the way.
And on that note, Happy New Year, and may peace be with you!