Happy new year: Work to make things better

I love to celebrate the coming of a new year because, even though it is technically just another day on the calendar, it still represents hope for a better future.

And that’s important to me because Humanism is a philosophy that focuses on the future. This is probably one of the reasons why most of the big names in the field of science fiction are all Humanists. For instance Isaac Asimov and Gene Roddenberry were both Humanists and Ray Bradbury still is.

Our interest in what the future might hold doesn’t mean we aren’t fully grounded in the present. We are. We just understand how much power there is in asking one very simple question. What if things were different?

For instance, what if we lived in a world without hunger? What if we lived in a world where no one died of cancer? What if we lived in a world where everyone was considered equal?

The power in asking these questions isn’t magical. We aren’t able to create a just and humane society just because we wish it to be so. The power of these questions lies in how we follow up on them.

For a Humanist, it isn’t enough to ask the question what if we could do better. We know that in order for things to change, someone has to actually do something or our dreams of a better world will never be realized. So we make it our responsibility to see that things get done.

Asking ourselves what if things were different allows us to reject the status quo. When you can imagine a world without suffering, you give yourself a dream worth working towards. Without that dream, we have nothing to strive for.

The single most important metaphysical question we humans seem to struggle with is how to find meaning in life. Humanists solve this age old dilemma by choosing to live as though our actions matter. And we do that by actively working to make the world a better place. Our goal is not simply to stumble through life hoping for the best. Our goal is to do our best to make our lives and the lives of others better.

I don’t know whether there is an afterlife or not. What I do know is that I am alive now and that I have no intention of wasting my short time here on earth not doing everything I can to help others. My new year’s resolution is the same as it always is. To be the best most ethical person I can be and to do whatever I can to make the world a slightly better place. Happy new year everyone!

Jennifer Hancock is the author of the book, the Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom. She can be found on the web at