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Happy New Year! When I say this, it feels more like a plea than a celebration. The usual new year resolutions don’t seem to fit somehow. Pessimism is no way to start a new year, and as a reader I know just where to go for an attitude adjustment.
Maria Popova, writer, philosopher and curator of wise words, writes an e-newsletter called themarginalian.org (formerly known as Brain Pickings). On January 2, she posted “Resolutions of a Life Worth Living: Attainable Aspirations Inspired By Great Humans of the Past.”
Soon I was happily choosing a few resolutions from her list and a few more from elsewhere that seem specific to the circumstances of our time.
Resolution No. 1. Choose Kindness:
Leo Tolstoy observed, “Kindness enriches our life; with kindness mysterious things become clear, difficult things become easy, and dull things become cheerful.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “You cannot do kindness too soon for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
No. 2. Refrain from judgment:
Popova sites “Daybook: The Journal of an Artist,” by Anne Truitt.
“Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves… We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them. I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allows them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself. The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.”
No. 3. Be Present:
Søren Kierkegaard wrote, “Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work… The unhappy person is one who has his ideal, the content of his life, the fullness of his consciousness, the essence of his being, in some manner outside of himself. The unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself. “
No. 4. Seek Justice:
Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
No. 5 Choose Joy:
From Anne Truett via themarginalian.org, “... Choose it at first consciously, effortfully, pressing against the weight of a world heavy with reasons for sorrow, restless with need for action. Feel the sorrow, take the action, but keep pressing the weight of joy against it… until it becomes mindless, automated, like gravity pulling the stream down its course; until it becomes an inner law of nature. If Viktor Frankl can exclaim ‘yes to life, in spite of everything!’ — and what an everything he lived through — then so can any one of us amid the rubble of our plans, so trifling by comparison. Joy is not a function of a life free of friction and frustration, but a function of focus — an inner elevation by the fulcrum of choice.”
Just copying these quotations onto the page has lifted my spirits. I feel encouraged to wish you a Happy New Year with sincerity and the hopefulness that it will be.
Rorie Measure is president emeritus of Children's Reading Alliance, a grassroots initiative to encourage family literacy throughout Doña Ana County. She is a reader, writer, teacher, reading specialist and literacy trainer who can be reached at email@example.com.