Today is January 1, 2010. Is it just another day on the calendar? Not quite. If nothing else, more people than usual will be waking up with a hangover. More important, however, many will be reflecting upon their shortcomings and be making New Year’s Resolutions. Therefore, here are a few thoughts about the matter.
Stress presents us with a conundrum. Our lives are unavoidably stressful, and we don’t like stress. So we do what we can to avoid stress — and responsibility. Unfortunately, by avoiding stress, we risk avoiding what it means to live.
What do we do to avoid stress? We escape. Up to a point, the means we choose to escape can be healthy. Unfortunately, man can corrupt anything of man. Here are some examples.
To escape the pressures of the real world, we can lose ourselves in an invented world: a daydream, a book, a movie, a computer game, a story told over a campfire… It is natural for us to enjoy fantasies. Because they can teach us we hold storytellers in high regard. Yet escape into entertainment can become the sole point of our fantasies. Then we become gluttonous. Instead of a restful and edifying interlude, to be entertained becomes the beginning and the end of our life.
We each look for examples we can follow. To ease our doubts about the decisions we make, we copy what others have done before. We follow the traditions — the example — of earlier generations. So it is that when December 25th comes around, we set up a Christmas Tree and put presents under it. So it is that when July 4th comes around, we have picnics and enjoy fireworks under the night sky. Unfortunately, our efforts to uphold tradition can become a mindless crutch. We can forget that traditions are covenants with earlier generations. We can lose ourselves in the beautiful ornamentation that surrounds a tradition and forget why earlier generations established the tradition.
We must each participate in the conduct the ceremony of a marriage, a funeral, a baptism, holy communion, and so forth so that we are informed by tradition. Just as Christmas is not Santa Claus and Independence Day is not fireworks, marriage is not just sex. Yet if we do not take the time to understand how a tradition came to be, Christmas becomes Santa Claus, Independence Day becomes fireworks, marriage becomes just sex, and so forth.
We can become creatures of mindless habit. Then even as we begin each day, eat our breakfast and head out the door for work, we can find ourselves just going through the motions.
The Example of Others
We all have heroes, people who we respect. What does it mean to have a hero? We copy their example. We model and emulate their behavior. We dress like them, speak like them and try to think like them. We do what they suggest. The causes of our heroes become our causes.
We can lose ourselves in the lives of our heroes. We can idolize movie stars, athletes, politicians, royalty, and even church leaders. Then we can forget that our heroes are just as human and weak as ourselves. We can forget that just because our hero believes something does not make it true.
Each day, we need to sleep. Most of us need eight hours. Yet sleep too is an escape. For a time we dream and shut out the cares of the world. To rise from bed, to take up the challenge of the day, that can seem unbearable. We can welcome the opportunity to shut out our cares and concerns. In the extreme, we can drug ourselves with alcohol and narcotics.
So what is the solution to carrying our efforts to escape into excess? What is my New Year’s Resolution? It is an old one and traditional — hardly something I invented.
I resolve each day to take the time to pray and read the Bible.
- I will take the time to review the day behind me and ask God to forgive my sins.
- I will look ahead to the day before me and ask God to help me do what is right.
- I will take the time to read holy scripture and contemplate its lessons.