As another year comes to a close, I find myself reflecting upon my journey through the days, weeks, and months of 2017. As with every year, this was a period of growth, with successes and failures along the way.
The eighteenth-century poet, Alexander Pope said, “To err is human…” Error is a part of everyday life. Trial and error is the pathway to growth and success. However, reaching our true potential in work, and life, and love, requires a good deal of introspection, and an honest evaluation of the causes and effects of our actions. Socrates once said, the unexamined life is not worth living. I believe that the most significant personal growth arises from an examination of our errors, shortcomings, and failures, and the determination to learn from them.
I want to give an example from my own life to illustrate this point. In 2017, I moved to Oregon. The move has allowed me to spend considerable time with my brother. He is 17 years old, and I am 35. I initially thought I would be the one sharing knowledge and wisdom for his personal growth. But as the months have passed, I have found that he has taught me more lessons than I could have ever imagined.
Just recently, we attended a dinner party. The event presented the opportunity to watch my brother perform a few songs on his guitar, and to meet new people. Of the skills that I do not possess, socializing and mingling are certainly among them. So, I soon found myself walking aimlessly around, drink in hand, munching on snacks, and talking only briefly to an acquaintance here and there. With time, I joined the ranks of those men and women that just stand against the wall, sip a cocktail, and watch the dancers on the dance floor. My brother was one of those dancers. As the songs changed, and the people came and went, his dance continued on. For a time, he was the only one on the dance floor, yet he carried on with not a care in the world.
“As I watched him, an old quote came to mind, “Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth.”
And so, I put down the drink, strolled onto the floor, and danced alongside him until the evening’s end. From the dance floor, I looked back to the onlookers, standing alone, drinks in hand, and was amused to think that just a moment ago, I was one of them.
Well, right there and then, I was reminded that the quality of our lives, and the condition of our surrounding environment, are shaped by the choices that we make, and the effort we take to effect change.
Thoreau once said, “It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man [and woman] is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.”
As the new year approaches, I think about my resolutions. How can I “carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which I look” to affect the quality of the day, not only for myself, but for the people around me, and for the natural world to which I am so deeply indebted?
I hear the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
New years resolutions are all about actions. We reflect on the experiences of our past, and resolve to take steps that foster the change that we want to see in our lives.
While change is not always easy to achieve, we can take comfort in knowing that baby steps, and tiny steps, and little steps, and small steps all, over time, can amount to great change.
For 2018, my resolutions include making consumer choices that reduce my ecological footprint, donating monthly to causes that are important to me, embracing new acquaintances with an open heart, and dancing and singing like no one is watching.
To conclude this post, I want to share with you the words of Eleanor Powell, “what we are is God’s gift to us, what we become is our gift to God.” For the evolutionists, the atheists, the agnostics, and so on, I believe these words can be rephrased as, “what we are is the world’s gift to us, what we become is our gift to the world.”
Happy new year to everyone!
Also, here are a few pics of my current drawing. I’m happy to say, it’s nearly completed. The original and prints will be for sale. A portion of each sale will be donated to an organization(s) supporting the rights of indigenous tribal people and/or organizations supporting ecological farming. I am still researching this, but Survival International will likely be a recipient of donations.