Friday, January 14, 2011

Keeping Resolutions

So we're two weeks into the New Year, and I am not yet super-model thin or super-Martha-Stewart organized (I don't know who the latest celebrity organization diva is, but I probably hate her.  I got past my loathing of Martha after she went to prison - gave her some street cred - that and her BFF Snoop Dogg) , and I haven't even put a chink in solving the woes of the world .  I thought by mid-month, I'd be well on my way to having my life and everyone else's in order.  I guess it's going to take a more significant part of 2011 (or maybe my lifetime) to accomplish any or all of those.

I actually have been getting to the gym once a day (trying to hit it at lunchtime when I can find a vacancy on a piece of equipment), and the last of the Christmas cookies have finally been eradicated (my kids were sick of them in their lunches).  And thanks to Rosie the Roomba, the dust and dog hair have been eradicated from my floors (still planning a separate post about my favorite new toy).  So I'm making some progress.  My office, however, is still a nightmare of holiday wrapping paper scraps, items that need to be returned, and a handful of gifts that never made it to their recipients.  There are still two weeks left in the month, so maybe by Groundhog Day, I'll have knocked off 10 lbs. and Martha Stewartized the office.  Or not...

This is the fundamental problem with resolutions.  They don't just happen on their own, and they don't happen at all quickly, and before we've even really started, we're back into our old habits and routines.  My downfall is typically poor planning.  The ideas and intentions flow, but vaporize before I reach the point of action.  Instead of blogging about it, I should probably be making a list or something, but blogging is it's own form of thought gathering for me (or so I tell myself).  It doesn't do much for the action part, I'm sorry to say.

When I was on the treadmill at the gym yesterday (heel continues to improve!), I turned on the TV and stumbled (not literally) onto Charlie Rose interviewing religious historian, Karen Armstrong.  I don't want to know what it says about me that I enjoy the occasional Charlie Rose show, but I was especially caught up by what Ms. Armstrong had to say.  The interview throughly occupied my 45 minutes in the hamster ball.

Karen Armstrong (onetime nun) has written extensively on the history of world religions (predominantly the Abrahamic religions, but also Eastern religions, etc.), and I admire and agree with much of what she has to say on this topic.  Her most recent book is called Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, and I think her thoughts in this book resonate at the start of a new year, particularly following the events of this week in Tucson (which I also learned about on the treadmill, hmmm).  I have not yet read the book, but here are a couple of things she had to say in her conversation with Mr. Rose:

  • On the definition of compassion, "to make place for the other in your mind and heart".  (I love this).
  • That we should not judge quickly just because we feel smart and clever.  Listen and think before lobbing the smart ass comment (I'm paraphrasing), and then don't lob it at all.  Find a more constructive and humble way to contribute.
  • Reject the temptation of clever unkindness and cruelty and be aware of how little we know.
  • The Golden Rule is a really good one.  Always keep it in the forefront.
  • Fundamentalism and radicalism in religion is rooted in fear and ignorance, both at home and abroad.
  • We are addicted to our prejudices and depend too much on our hatred of the things we fear.
  • We get a buzz from our cleverly wounding remarks.  They are poisonous.
  • Be "mindful" - watch the way you behave and speak.  Be aware of it and how it impacts others.
  • Don't be afraid to enter into civil dialogue, and do it with the expectation of being enlightened or changed.  Otherwise there is no point.  You are better for it, not compromised.
  • Commit one kind act a day of any sort.  Once you've mastered that, up the ante until your day is filled with kindnesses.
  • Strive to leave the world marginally better because you have lived in it, and you will have lived a life of value.
Well, that's what I got from it.  The last two items, in particular, are measurable goals (dare I say, resolutions) that I think each of us can set for ourselves if we choose.  Some of the others are harder, but equally, or even more, important.  I think the point is that we need to continually question what we think we know, make ourselves aware of and open to other ways and opinions, let go of our fears and paranoia by listening and learning, and be open to revising our understanding.  This interview, in addition to the President's fine speech, has provided me with some inspiration to deal with the hideous event that opened the year in Tucson and any others to come in 2011.  Let's hope there are finer moments ahead for our country in the new year and resolve to do our part to heal and not wound further.

I'm not sure any of this will help with my fitness or organization, but it might remind me not to roll my eyes at the little lady ahead of me at Graul's writing a check.  And if I might suggest another resolution for all that would make it easier for me to keep mine of being more patient, read what my hero, Einstein, is writing on the chalkboard above (you can click on the picture to enlarge it if you can't read the words - again with the eyes!). 

If you want to watch the interview with Karen Armstrong for yourself (and I recommend it highly, even if it is Charlie Rose!  I won't tell anybody you watched), here is the link to the video:

*  The first half of the interview focuses more on Karen's personal story and then a discussion of the histories, evolution, similarities, and differences of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam which I've always found fascinating, but if you do not, the link below is to the Hulu version of the interview which allows you to skip forward in the video more easily than the one above.  If you join the interview at the 29 minute mark, you will hear more of the discussion on compassion and it's place in the modern world.

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