This is the time of year for making ‘resolutions’ for the new year. The word resolve originally meant to dissolve or untie, to free from chains (the word solve originally meant to loosen — apparently to the inventors of our civilized languages, lack of freedom was the only real ‘problem’). While we do need to free ourselves, what we need more today, I think, is something stronger: We need commitments. The word commitment means ‘to send oneself over’, a permanent, one-way trip to Let-Self-Change. By this definition, a commitment unkept is an oxymoron, a mere failed resolution.
For me, this has been a year of momentous personal change: I got sick, and cured myself, changed careers and lifestyle and got myself into the best condition since my 20s; I learned some important lessons about indigenous cultures and the Great Depression; and I concluded that what we need to do to save the world is more about Let-Self-Change and about creating ‘working models’ of better ways to live, than about bringing about radical political or economic revolution (which is, I now believe, an impossible dream).
These changes came about because I had no other choice: We do what we must. Had I not made the commitment to personal health, I would probably be either dead or useless today. Had I not learned and changed my ideas about saving the world I would probably have given up blogging and either sunk into a terminal depression or been arrested for some fruitless extreme act. Now it is time for me to make some commitments, not resolutions, to act on my evolving social, political and economic understanding and beliefs. I have learned to free up time for what is urgent, and now I must apply that learning to free up time, and energy, for what is important.
So here are my commitments for 2007:
To make time for these commitments, I will spend less time trying to convince others, in writing and in debate, of anything they are not yet ready to believe. This blog already contains lots of material for those who are ready to partner with me and with others in activities like those noted above, and I will endeavour to make the blog’s future content less evangelical and more useful (and it will likely be less analytical and more narrative).
And I will be spending less time reading, especially reading newspapers. Looking at the ‘news’ of the past year, I’m hard put to find anything (even the trouncing of the Republicans in the recent US election) that will really matter to any of us in five years. The ‘news’ is mostly useless information, entertainment designed to distract us from what is really important.
We do what we must, then we do what’s easy, and then we do what’s fun. We live in a terrible world where there are many things that must be done, but few that must necessarily be done by any designated individual or group, so these imperatives mostly don’t get done by anyone. I’m accepting a responsibility to make some of these collective ‘musts’ my own. To do the same, all you have to do is free up the time from other personal ‘musts’. This is easier, I’ve learned, than you might think. Just make a commitment, an intention, and begin. Even better, find and get together with others of like mind and take it on as a shared responsibility.
Yesterday morning, as I was outside running, I heard two chickadees uttering their plaintive three-note song, alternately, and then, astonishingly and improbably, in lovely and perfect unison. Even they sounded surprised, and went back hastily to alternate songs. And then they sang again, precisely together. After the second stanza, they were silent for a long time. In fact, everything suddenly became silent. It was almost as if every creature was taking note of this discovery, this synchronicity, this perfect andunexpected harmony.
Silence the noise of the machine in your head, and pay attention, and discover and learn wondrous things. And when you’re ready, ‘send yourself over’.
Happy New Year, everyone.