Sunday, January 2, 2011

der Jahresanfang

This is what a wild party at my house looks like.

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." - Wm. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene II
Daybreak on a new year always puts me in a reflective mood (as does illness and, at present, my white blood cells and a rhinovirus are going at it like Aias and Odysseus.  The good news is, at present, smart money seems to be on my white blood cells, but the war has not yet ended.)  I thought it might be wise to seize the blessing of my weekend falling at the advent of 2011 and devote the time to a bit of assessment and, if I might be so quotidian, resolution.

I've noticed a new trend of people having "a word" for the new year as a focal point.  My waggish side wants to respond, "My word for 2011 is: Mozart."  Which is true in a way, but not exactly in the spirit of the experiment if I understand it correctly.  As trite as pat and simplistic goals may seem on the surface, in playing with the concept in my brain, I stumbled upon a surprisingly valuable truth.  While bantering more humorous ideas for "my word" around, The Tiny Psychoanalyst that lives inside my brain spoke up and said, "Your word for the year should be 'peace.'  It's what you lack."

That would be scanned.  I recalled a conversation I recently had with someone who told me that they would like to see me have more confidence and, when they said that, I was instantly aware of exactly to what they were referring.  My compulsion for precision (and, I'll admit, desire to be loved) often leaves my confidence floundering.  The other night I said to Laurie, "You know, 2010 was not a good year, but I feel like I'm a better man for it."  Which is also true, however, I think I find myself at the end of a year of "sledgehammering" where my paradigms have been shattered.  Now it is time to rebuild.

I realize that I lack the peace I used to have.  I think somewhere in the years following what I now can see as my injudicious drift from Quakerism, the Existential Ticking of my Quietus Alarm Clock has drowned out the Still, Small Voice.  The result is a very neurotic, panicked, hypochondriacal, anxiety-ridden man.  I need to find peace.  I need to infuse myself with peace.  In doing so, I think I will be able to exhibit the confidence, joy, and compassion that befits a virtuous life.

So, How does one obtain peace?

1. Be silent.  Listen more.  Observe. Get out in the wild and other calm spaces so you can fill yourself with with it and bring it back within you when you have to return to urban places.  One of the primary reasons for the persistent illusion of the triumph of the boor and the bully in American culture is that the boor and the bully are loud about it.  The good are content with peace and quiet.  I used to have a history book written by a Quaker professor about the "peace times and cultures" in history in response to the overwhelming trend of human history being a chronicle of violence.  It was a terribly, delightfully boring book.  Join the Good.  Be more quiet.

2. Love everyone unconditionally.  While I am unapologetic in my hopelessly Western theology, there is a concept in Eastern traditions that I find quite beautiful (more than one, actually, but one that specifically speaks to my purpose here.)  It's the concept of the Buddha nature which is, if I understand it correctly, that potential that is within everyone to become enlightened.  Therefore, the most crass, brutal, violent, greedy, pig-headed, lecherous dolt you meet has the potential for perfect enlightenment.  This appeals to the "all created equal" American in me.  It's also a doorway to finding love for everyone individually.  This one actually isn't one of the common manifestations of my problem (except when I'm driving.)

3.  Work on one's faith.  Providence is still in play regardless of how much I feel like a rat in a sinking life-raft in the middle of the sea.  One way to do this is to focus on the blessings one has and the needs that have been met in one's life.  Another is to face each turn in life with gratitude.  On a very basic level, I would point out, no matter how bad life gets, it is still life.  In other words, optimism is the domain of the victorious.  There is always a way.

4. Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum.

I have other goals for the year as well.  In the Harvard Classics reading series, I would like to reach Cellini by the end of the year, but find that an absolutely unreasonable goal as it is over 20 volumes away.  Especially as I imagine I will take a few "breaks" from the series or, at least, not read the series exclusively until I complete it.  I think more realistically I will be reading the volume of fairy tales around this time next year (or possibly Cervantes.)  That suits me fine.  It's looking like the primary function of gaining a Harvard Level education through this series is more a financial advantage (savings on tuition) than anything to do with less time and energy.

I find resolutions involving the nouns and verbs of our lives (job goals, possessions, body work, etc) tend to butt heads with the unforeseeable mutations required in life.  While I do have some goals in those categories, I shall spare my future self the embarrassment of stating them on public record.

I would like to spend the year stuffing my senses with greatness in hopes that greatness is what will come pouring back out of me, but never to the preclusion of virtue (I am of the camp which believes that seeking wisdom where e'er She may be pleases The Lord.)  In short, I want to continue to grow and strive toward being a better human.  Should the Moirae apportion a good year or a bad one matters little really so long as one is able to grow and maintain one's hope of home.


  1. Looks as if we're all in the same boat boat Paul. Some useful reminders here, glass half full NOT half empty,divine providence ever working. I keep forgetting that i have over 30 square miles of beautiful landscape, easy to cycle on my door-step. The silence here is deafening but also i fear that the society i live in has lost its identity far more than the USA and is far less Christian, quite brutish in fact. The only remedy? Keep on taking the Browne and prayer! A positive post for the New Year, but dont' overdo it on the Jeeves and Wooster or you might turn Bertie!

  2. Paul, I could have posted the same sentiments. Anxiety, lack of peace, the tightrope act of the seeming impossibility to live with or without faith. I'm getting ready for work, so can't post more now.

    Here's hoping you find peace.