It’s that time of year when some of us feel compelled to put forth our version of an inspirational message. In times past, I’ve been inspired by both baser and higher impulses. I’ve written about gratitude on more than one occasion, although, truth be told, I find the collective impulse to remind ourselves and everyone else to be grateful to be a little, well, grating. Most of the people I know are well aware of what they have; it doesn’t mean they can or should ignore what they—what we all—might be missing.
On the other hand, words of doom and gloom seem particularly inappropriate this time of year. Not that it’s a happy time for many people I know. I have a number of friends, some virtual, some not, who have faced enormous health and financial challenges this year. I hurt on their behalf. Hell, I hurt on behalf of all the fearful people in the world, myself included.
In my case, the fears are both ordinary and extraordinary, micro and macro. I worry about growing old and becoming infirm, sure. I don’t like the idea of being alone or otherwise disconnected.
Most of all, though, what I fear is an increase (or no visible decrease, at any rate) in illogical, closed-minded intolerance. I call it non-thinking, the visceral reactive state that has far too many people clinging to their beliefs as if they were life preservers. It’s difficult for me to understand how, in 2017 (the twenty-first century!), whole swaths of folks adhere to a values hierarchy that has little to do with morality. They hold fast to outdated or outright false Biblical, biological, and generational maxims at the expense of anything approaching humanity. How else does a cruel, narcissistic adulterer become a touchstone for so many? How else does false equivalency gain credence, while “fake news” is defined as anything remotely critical, regardless of objectivity? How can groups of people be dismissed because of who they are, what they believe, or how they love? How do we live in a world where dictators are heroes and heroes are maligned?
But doom and gloom don’t move us forward any more than do lectures on gratitude or syrupy seasonal wishes. Which is why, after cruising through holiday messages of yore, I’ve gone back to a statement I penned several years ago and lifted from my book Hope in Small Doses. It’s a sort of declaration, not of war or even of independence but of resolve. I have to revisit it from time to time, but now it’s part of my DNA. If it suits or serves you moving into 2018, then by all means, let this be my gift to you.
“I choose hope, at least in small doses. I choose to assign myself a purpose, and embrace the journey that leads to the fulfillment of that purpose. I acknowledge the risk of stumbling along the way, of never completely accomplishing what I set out to do, or of discovering that I inadvertently changed course. I accept as a working theory that humans live their best lives when they ascribe meaning to their lives. I take as a matter of faith that it is within each of us to live meaningful lives, to love, to interact, to connect in fellowship; and that how long our reach, or wide our influence, is far less important than the path we set for ourselves. I realize I will always feel some disappointment and may come to conclusions and discoveries late in life that I wish I’d reached earlier. But so what? That only means I’ve been growing and learning. It also means I’m human…and being fully, completely human is always going to be my most important accomplishment.
I don’t propose to know how hope will continue to fit into my life. I only know that in some small measure, I want it. I need it. I deserve it. We all do.”
Happy holidays whoever and wherever. Here’s to a bright 2018.