By Emily Erickson
I’m not usually much for reading into horoscopes or zodiac influence beyond a twinkle of entertainment, placing (maybe too much) stake in my own volition and the fundamental aspects of human nature responsible for the patterns in our lives.
But I do love symbolism. My brain operates largely in metaphors, tying connections between things that could be considered mundane or wholly unrelated. It’s an insatiable seeking for meaning that’s seeded somewhere ancient in me — connected to the part of myself still stretching back centuries, wrapped in ceremony and mysticism.
This sliver of self is piqued when gazing into a rumbling fire, watching rolling waves or peering into a velvety, star-lit sky. It’s piqued when cocooned in a candle-lit room, during extreme forms of physical exertion, and when engulfed by any multi-part musical harmony. And it was piqued when I read that 2022 was the Chinese Year of the Water Tiger.
According to tradition, the Chinese New Year, beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, marks a transition from the influence of one zodiac to another — the forces of the world being basically “under new management.” The tiger is the third of 12 Chinese zodiacs and is affected by one of five elements in any given year (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) bringing further nuance to the zodiac’s behaviors.
The tiger is considered the king of all animals in China, symbolizing strength, justice and bravery. In 2022, it’s said to be influenced by the water element (last occurring in 1962), smoothing out the hard edges of the tiger’s solitary or judgemental tendencies and allowing it to lean into its softer, more thoughtful and altruistic nature.
Which — after the past few years of being at the mercy of a global pandemic, an ever-changing economic scope, political and social unrest, an imploding planet and the spreading disease of divisiveness — makes me want to fully embrace the symbolism in Chinese tradition this year.
Who better to lead us through this jungle of uncertainty and universal lack of precedence than a brave, justice-oriented and altruistic tiger? What better energy to embody when staring into the venomous face of rampant misinformation, systemic racism, campaigns against women’s rights, gentrification of our local communities and crumbling representative democracy than the fierce dynamicness of a wild cat?
And what better element to complement that fangs-and-claws-out-for-our-cause attitude than the connectivity and steadiness of water — reminding us that ferocity can only get us part of the way to where we’re trying to go. Empathy, compassion and thoughtfulness have to carry us the rest of the way; to the future we can only dare to imagine as possible.
Chinese New Year’s traditions and zodiac signs aside, adding a new number to the end of our dates, ticking off another year on our calendars, is an opportunity. It holds all the possibility of a reset button, allowing us to reflect on the lessons gained over the past year, and use those lessons to inform our intentions for the 12 months ahead.
We are cyclical by nature, as humans, reveling in the ritual of new beginnings and fresh starts; of shedding old skins, old habits and old ways of living that aren’t suiting us anymore. The past few years have been hard, for so many people in so many different ways, that going back to where we were “before” isn’t an option. But, we can rebuild on all the collective surviving we had to do just to get by, reclaiming the clarity and vigor of a new beginning to forge a different future.
We can get clear on what we want our small communities to look like, the kind of neighbors we want to be and have, and what values we share in our close-knit groups. We can decide which parts of our national and global communities we should help shape, and which parts we should leave to the people most qualified for shaping.
Most importantly, we can fight tooth-and-claw to be the best versions of ourselves; to empower the people around us; to make our slivers of the world better; and to not let our ferocity alienate us from that which runs through us and every other person we’ll ever meet.
Emily Erickson is a writer and business owner with an affinity for black coffee and playing in the mountains. Connect with her online at www.bigbluehat.studio.
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