Maybe it’s me rather than the tradition

Published 6:03 pm Friday, January 8, 2021

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I’m done with New Year’s resolutions. After six decades of making and breaking commitments to myself, I’m finally ready to admit that goals quickly chosen are quickly discarded.

The central takeaway from my relationship with resolutions is that, like promises to Cathy to organize my upstairs office, they are ignored almost as soon as they are made. Choo Co La Tah, I am told, is a Dark-Warrior in a series of fantasy novels. He is quoted as saying that to deny the presence of the sun doesn’t escape its blister; that is, sometimes you have to face the truth about yourself, even when it blisters your skin.

So, following Choo Co’s advice, I am ready to admit to myself that the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions isn’t working for me. I’ve come to accept that I need to either change my strategy or my goals. Switch to different rituals or to different objectives.

My objectives in the past all had something to do with self-improvement. Maybe, I thought, I would have a better chance of succeeding at keeping resolutions if I directed my efforts in another direction — outward, away from the self and into the world.

It didn’t take me long to realize that if I did that the options would be endless. One doesn’t have to be a Stephen Hawking clone to realize that the world is not as it should be or, at least, as we might want it to be.

The greedy rich should not live in luxury while the poor suffer for want of basic food and shelter. Crime should not pay. Nations should be countries of law rather than men.

People should be free to come and go as they please without fear of assault. The sick should not die alone in hospitals surrounded by strangers in white coats and the beeping of heart monitors.

But that’s sometimes the way things are — cruel, unfair, arbitrary and lethal.

Religious persons tell themselves stories to explain why the world is like that. One story is about a couple named Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were meant to live in peace and harmony with their Creator-God but disobeyed him (at that time in history, all gods were described as male). Their punishment was to be banned from the Garden of Perfect Harmony and know death.

Humans have been trying to find their way back to the Garden for millennia. We want desperately to live in harmony and peace but cannot find our way, or get in our own way, or are prevented by others from doing so.

The Christian Book of Revelation prophesizes a different existence it calls a “new heaven and a new earth”, a place where people no longer weep or mourn or die.

All three of the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) dream that the reality of the world in which we live –in its harshness, violence and injustice – might be transformed as intended by God at creation into one of compassion, love and equity.

At the beginning of each New Year we are offered the option of working with Yahweh/God in Christ/Allah to transform the world or of continuing to support the world as it is.

We can continue to support those who favor the wealthy over the poor and destroy the earth for gain or we can help protect the world from destruction by overuse and abuse and recreate a world in which economic policies favor the poor and the needy.

We can march and fight for liberation from oppression, the suppression of voting rights, and unjust economic policies or we can choose to support government and cultural programs that reward selfishness, inequality, and violence.

We can continue to support policies that enrich military contractors and devastate parts of the earth or we can help foster peace among nations.

Needless to say, a lot has to change before the world as we know it now can be transformed into the world as we would like it to be. The first step is to align ourselves with the forces of good. Then, we must get to work to help make God’s dream for the world a reality.

That will take time, probably beyond the life span of those reading this column. There will be frustrations and failures along the way. The outcome is not predetermined. But the journey is worth the effort, because the final outcome is a world in which we may live together in peace and harmony. And who doesn’t want that?