Another New Year is upon us, but I don’t want to let the old one go just yet.
The New Year always inspires me to think about what went before and what lies ahead.
The older I get, the faster the years seem to pass, and the more I want to slow them down and savor life a moment at a time. This year, my resolution is a simple yet difficult one.
I don’t want to win Mega Millions. (But I won’t refuse it when my numbers come up. Odds of winning — one in 250 million.) And I don’t want to be one of People magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People or on Forbes’ list of the Richest Men in the World.
My goal is more ambitious: I want to be a better person today than I was yesterday. And that’s going to require a daily struggle. I’ll need help, heavenly help, I suspect. Change is never easy, but he who’s not busy being born is busy dying. Dylan said that.
For most of my life, I’ve believed that the only time people change is when they change for the worse. It’s always easier to become a worse human being because the downward path is a popular one to take, and it’s heavily trafficked. The upward path is steep and narrow, and there’s not much activity there.
To prepare myself, I’m beginning to make some minor modifications in the way I look at life. I no longer think of success in terms of “career advancement” or “accumulation of wealth,” even though it’d be nice to retire someday with enough cash to pay my medical bills and a little left over for riotous living — sorry, I forgot I have to put that behind me now.
That cranky philosopher and woodsman Henry David Thoreau probably said it best when he left society behind and went to live in the cabin he built on Walden Pond (on land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson): “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…”
I’m convinced the vast majority of Americans are “living what is not life,” and they don’t even realize it.
Some of my friends are obsessed with their careers, some are obsessed with their bonuses, some are obsessed with a palatial home, some with prestige, possessions, their golf games, the New York Yankees and the pursuit of pleasure in its many manifestations. There’s a long list of obsessions to preoccupy us and ultimately it leads nowhere.
There are role models out there who can teach us to live better lives but you won’t find them in the usual places. You’ll seldom find them among the rich and famous, political leaders, celebrities, and sport figures.
So this year I’m going to try to look at things differently even though my family members and friends are still inspired by loud partying, a buzz and the terrifying image of Miley Cyrus swinging on the New Year ball.
Joe Pisani may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.