After the first days of 2021 we now see that a simple turning of the calendar page is not enough to change the miserable state of affairs that we called “2020.” We celebrated New Year’s Day with a little hope that we had survived the worst that history could give us. The first two weeks of 2021 have shown us that a cathartic New Year’s Eve and a “Good riddance 2020!” isn’t going to be enough to turn things around. If anything, these first days of 2021 have proved that things might actually be worse than what we witnessed in 2020. And it shows that significant change that leads to justice, security, peace, and human flourishing is completely up to us. This leads me to think: maybe we missed the boat two weeks ago when we could have made clear, meaning New Year’s resolutions.
My informal poll of my students revealed that hardly anyone had given this any thought. When I enthusiastically asked “have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?” the conversation fell flat. This happens when I ask people about Lent too. And Yom Kippur. And beginning-of-semester goal-setting. But I’m not casting stones: Much of what I write here is directed at myself.
Our history with New Year’s Resolutions isn’t great. Many of us dedicate ourselves to a healthy lifestyle, losing weight, being better organized, or starting a new hobby. I don’t mean to diminish such things. They are great in themselves and often suggest a deeper “spiritual” transformation. But we don’t usually take them too seriously. When deciding what to resolve, we don’t give them a lot of thought. They are rarely transformational. And we rarely keep them. It’s fitting that I’m writing this 14 days into the new year--a time when many of us have already forgotten what we resolved to do on Jan. 1.
So here is one call to make New Year’s resolutions that really matter. Times are bad, and we need to be better. Please consider keeping your pledges to exercise, get more sleep, and read more. Those are still important. But it is clear we also have a lot of work to do to restore our civic dialogue, care for those who suffer, empower the powerless and the disenfranchised, save our democracy, and save our planet. And this year, as an added bonus that we never asked for, we have fascism as a clear target to take on.
I made the following resolutions on New Year’s Day, 2021. I’d love to hear your resolutions. And I would love your support and encouragement in keeping them. Let’s hold each other accountable.
- Drink more water (it’s good for you and it means you drink less of the stuff that comes in bottles, plastic, and cans)
- Be less judgemental of others
- Empower my children (and students) to do things for themselves; avoid the temptation to just do things for them. Otherwise, how will they learn?
- Dedicate a little bit of time each day for contemplative practice
- Read more (less scrolling, less consumption of news that only makes me sad)
- Dedicate time for creative work: art, crafts, building and home projects
- Stay in touch with people who I otherwise lose track of (especially given COVID)
- Be willing to have long, patient, difficult conversations with people