[Column] 2020 vision

It is far better to counterbalance this year’s stories of gloom and doom with tales of kindness and the triumph of the human spirit, Vishal Onkhar discovers.

Vishal Onkhar: “Rembrandt’s forays into Indian drawing techniques might have guided his hand in The Jewish Bride, a copy of which hangs in the hallways of 3mE.” (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

This year has been a remarkable paradox – flying by just as swiftly as its predecessors while still managing to feel like it lasted an eternity. We’ve witnessed everything from civil unrest to environmental catastrophes, not to mention the confounded coronavirus which has dragged on like a TV show that should have concluded two seasons ago. The media has also sounded increasingly like a broken record, peddling stale news and leaving us to languish in a state of perpetual déjà vu. All this, and there’s still a couple of months to go!

It is easy to lose sight of the future amidst this relentless stream of grim tidings. Indeed, I sporadically find myself unable to see clearly what tomorrow holds. My first instinct in such situations is, invariably, to detach myself from the goings-on of the world by steering clear of the news. But I soon realise that this wilful ignorance brings me no peace (so much for that old adage!), since facts don’t cease to exist simply because we choose to avert our eyes. Doing so is opting for the easy way out, in my opinion. Instead, I find that it is far better to counterbalance the stories of gloom and doom with tales of kindness and the triumph of the human spirit. This reaffirms our faith in people and grants us the mental fortitude to cope with each passing day, while staving off nihilism. It also bestows upon us the precious gifts of hope – the hope that life will improve; perspective – the perspective that not all is wrong with the world, and strength – the strength to be the change we want to see in the future.

‘Progress is being made, no matter how slowly’

Since good news is often overshadowed by negativity in the mass media, I have taken to actively seeking it out. This has led me to drastically overhaul the manner in which I consume information – by truncating the number of sources I rely on and prioritising local news over most major outlets, a decision sparked by the realisation that the members of the latter group have little to offer that is truly unique. After all, why subject myself to a barrage of posts conveying the same distressing message, when just one will suffice? Besides, via regional sources I have learnt that in 2020, humanity has made great strides towards curing HIV, same-sex marriage has become legal in Costa Rica, a Dutch platform called ‘Tussen Kunst en Quarantaine’ has spearheaded a new art form that involves recreating iconic paintings, and a sharp decline in air pollution worldwide has potentially saved thousands of lives – all facts that were drowned out by the clamour of the headlines. And it’s savouring these little victories that reminds us that progress is being made, no matter how slowly, and that we should refrain from being discouraged.

In the end, 2020 has proven to be a long and arduous road, but only if we have forgotten how to stop and smell the roses along the sidewalk. And although it may sometimes appear that there is no end in sight (what with the impending US election, the outcome of which will chart humanity’s course for the future), we can derive comfort from the knowledge that many things are better now than ever before, and pledge to never again take life’s small pleasures for granted.

Vishal Onkhar is from Chennai, India and pursuing his PhD in Vehicle Engineering at TU Delft. He is an avid player of chess and video games, but he also harbours a special interest for reading and writing fantasy fiction. He doesn’t drink coffee but good music and film have the same effect on him.

Columnist Vishal Onkhar

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