As 2014 comes to an end, I feel an urge to slam the door and say, “Good riddance!” It’s been a difficult year for many people, myself included, starting on Jan. 2, 2014 with the death of my mother, and quickly thereafter the death of a dear friend’s father, and then another dear friend’s father, and then another dear friend’s best friend… and well, that’s the way the year went.
And that was just on the personal level. The world stage seemed to be a Shakespearean tragedy directed by Sam Peckinpah. Disease and war and natural disasters and racist killings and riots and attacks on the police and more war and planes going down and sexual crimes by people in high places and more war and more death and disaster…
During so many phone calls and coffee chats, all we could do was ask when this would end and wonder if the world hadn’t entered some cataclysmic phase that will only get worse.
And yet… in the midst of the grief and worry and pain, I also found new friends and learned how to be a better friend. I visited new places and saw some marvelous things. Today The Best Beloved and I celebrate 24 years of marriage — and if that’s not a miracle I don’t know what is! I am, in all ways, blessed beyond my deserving.
As I get older I realize I have little time for things that don’t truly nourish me, and no time at all for pointless arguments about things over which I have no control anyway.
What do I mean by that? I mean there are issues on the world stage that matter deeply to me–of course they do–such as racism, and the treatment of women, and our care of the planet and the creatures we share it with, and poverty, and … well, there are quite a few. At the same time, ranting and finger-pointing and vilifying people seems counter-productive (more and more with every passing year).
What matters instead is the person in front of me, the thing that appears before me right now, that calls for my attention. How shall I not only be good, but be good for something, as Thoreau said? I sometimes wonder what it is I’m good for. I admit it. My life is so small. But that’s my life. I don’t live on the world stage, nor would I be suited to such a role. (More than six people in a room and you’re likely to find me hiding behind the potted palm.) I live here, in this town, on this street. And so I must work with what I’ve been given. That’s what I believe each of us as asked to do: to live with as much goodness as we can precisely where we are. Kindness is a good religion, no matter what you call God. If I recall correctly, the Dalai Lama said that.
In fact, I think if we all did that, the world would quickly be changed in positive ways.
And so that will be my New Year’s resolution: In 2015 I will try to focus on the work of being good within the sphere of my own influence, and not fall into the entropy of despair that can result from focusing on the things I cannot change. Gee, where I have heard something similar before? Snort.