The beginning of a new year naturally triggers introspection and reevaluation. I’ve approached this in many different ways over the years. Formal resolutions, S.M.A.R.T. goals, informal resolutions, sorta-kinda wishes. I like the path I’m walking on currently. There’s not an existential desire to step off the path and blaze one in a new direction. What there is in my mind today is a desire to reflect on the path and balance out a few things.
Balance will be one of my mantras in 2017. I like where I’m at individually with Maria, the kids as a father, the kids as a teacher, the homestead, but I feel like these are too often disparate arenas of my life, not a cohesive hole. Priorities juggle, time spent on each comes and goes in fits and starts. I want to blend my life better.
While on the path I also need to open my spiritual senses better, understand my faith as it stands, as I wish it to be. I’m comfortable saying that I believe in a god, that I pray, that it is a personal relationship. There is a spiritual presence that has walked with me for many, many years. A presence, a voice much like conscience but which does not feel wholly internal. I’ve long struggled to interpret it and think all of my interpretations have so far been mistaken. It is what it is. I am who I am. God is, whatever it is. I’ve talked in other posts about forms of magic, about ways the divine clearly (to me) emanates in the physical world.
There is no need to have answers on this by the end of 2017. Indeed, one of the best things about spirituality is the need to accept mystery. The restraint to keep it at that rather than formalize and sterilize into ritual and doctrine.
Simply, I want to be a better person. We should all wish this, each and every year we journey on the earth. For me, part of becoming better is cultivating this spirituality. Make it a part of my every day life instead of something I’ve partitioned off and only occasionally remembered to re-examine. I’ll likely write more about this through the year but I think that is enough for today.
A few of my favorite pictures from 2016 (in no particular order):
David Cain at Raptitude is one of the most insightful contemporary writers into the human condition. I’ve enjoyed reading his blog for quite some time. He really nails it in this piece.
Two choice quotes:
I’m not suggesting we downplay or deny the harm that our moral failings cause, but to become more accepting of human failing in general, particularly our own. We are too quick to condemn people for not living up to what are actually extremely lofty standards, at least for a creature whose motivations are still largely reptilian.
You could call this kind of acquired humanness wisdom, and the pursuit of wisdom is called philosophy. There’s a running joke in Western culture about the uselessness of a philosophy degree, which is a nearly perfect indication of how unwise our culture really is. We consider education to be useful only insofar as it expands our income, which seems to be our our primary measure of personal development.
But philosophy isn’t useless or boring. It’s how we learn how to be better people, or more specifically, how to become the kind of people we wish others would be. For thousands of years, people have been teaching each other how to be a better partner, overcome envy and greed, be compassionate regardless of our own troubles, imagine better societies, raise better children, and otherwise become less self-interested and easier to be around.
It’s a great piece. Hopefully you find it as thought-provoking as I did. Empathy is something I really struggle with. But I think it’s really amazing to realize that all of the qualities which we praise as “human” or “virtuous” aren’t innate. They’re skills that we have to practice every day. To borrow Stephen Covey’s phrase, we need to be always ‘sharpening the saw’. It’s insights like this that remind me why I have certain books I re-read regularly, because it’s so easy to forget the insight they gave you the first (or previous) time you read them, but also because as we grow, they nourish us in yet new ways.