Editorial: Happy New Year, everyone!
New Year’s resolutions are a common topic of columnists at this time of year, and I’ve been wondering what sort of resolutions might be most helpful, to individual people or to the world as a whole.
Over my lifetime I haven’t made a habit of engaging in New Year’s resolutions – always thought that if I wasn’t already doing a thing that would be helpful, then there were reasons for that failure. Maybe not good reasons, but reasons.
Traditionally, many New Year’s resolutions have been aimed at self-improvement; eat a healthier diet, exercise more, quit smoking or binge-drinking or nail-biting, start meditating or journaling, reduce screen time, and so on. All good and useful stuff, but — self, self, self.
This coming year promises to be an unusual sort of year – probably even more unusual than the one we’ve just lived. Faced with unusual or unprecedented events, we often have difficulty dealing with them or even accepting that they’re happening, never mind why. Given that many of us may face unprecedented situations in 2020 and beyond, how can we best manage? How can we best influence our world for the better, beyond all that good and useful self-improvement?
Pondering this has led to offering a few perhaps simplistic suggestions for readers to consider:
1. Build good relationships with neighbours and other fellow citizens of all ages and demographic groups. There may come a time when we will all need to help each other. They irritate you sometimes? Give them the benefit of the doubt when forming your judgments. Refrain from repeating nasty gossip – chances are it’s not true anyway.
2. Respond to the best in other people rather than condemning them for those things about them that you don’t approve of, agree with, or like. Since we’re all human and imperfect, we can probably find something to not like in just about everyone, but why focus on that?
3. Seek truth. Question what you hear or read – even if it coincides with what you really want to be true, suspect might be true, or what you fear might be true, or if it’s shocking and outrageous and has gone viral. Slow down and check facts before you re-post things or repeat them. Work for accuracy. Check sources, and ask: who benefits from people believing this item? Be especially diligent to fact-check items that seem to promote ill-will toward anyone, or any group. Ill-will is a toxic thing to spread around.
4. Be willing to listen to other views. Marcus Aurelius wrote this as a bit of advice to himself: “Persuade me or prove to me that I am mistaken in thought or deed, and I will gladly change – for it is the truth I seek, and the truth never harmed anyone. Harm comes from persisting in error and clinging to ignorance.” (The Emperor’s Handbook, Book Six, para. 21, translated by Hicks and Hicks, 2002. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor from 161 A.D. until his death in 180 A.D.)
5. Cultivate generosity of spirit. Relax and let that guy into traffic. Smile as you open the door for someone else. If you can afford to, drop something good into the Food Bank box. Buy local, even if it costs a bit more. Greet strangers on the street, or at least give them a smile.
6. Lower your expectations – of what the world owes us; of how much money you need to be happy; about now much stuff you should acquire and how much it should cost.
7. Raise your expectations – of how well you can live with less than you consider your due, and about how much convincing and public pressure provincial and federal governments need before they will do the right thing. And then help convince them to act for the common good.
All these things may be intended to benefit the world beyond self, but they will also benefit the individuals who do them – or double your money back!
Meanwhile, all readers who have additional ideas about how we can influence our world for the better are very welcome to post them below as comments. No resolutions required!