For several years I have taken the wise words which Walt Whitman wrote to preface his Leaves of Grass as my resolution for the upcoming year. Resolved:
This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
give alms to every one that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any [person] or number of [persons],
go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,
re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem.
How have I done?
Love the sun…Just the other day I asked Elizabeth to join me on her back deck to take a look at my favorite color, a light pink, filling the sky at the end of a winter sunset.
Despise riches…I am firmly committed to the notion that the number one problem in the world today is the immense wealth disparity between the haves and the have-nots.
Give alms…I had a 50% success rate the other day. On the drive down to Bloomington to be with my parents, I paused at the stoplight on the off-ramp of I-465 to SR 37 South to give $1 to a lovely lady holding a cardboard sign. However, an hour later on my way to lunch in Bloomington, I did not stop for a man sitting up against a storefront in Eastland mall holding a similar sign.
Stand up for the stupid and crazy…I do so every time my stupid and crazy self stands up.
Devote income and labor to others…The majority of my income goes to provide food, shelter and WiFi for my youngest daughter and I continue to labor for the richest man in the world.
Hate tyrants…Especially orange tyrants that are “rich.”
Argue not concerning God…Not that I think God cares, but as a highly educated “professional” theologian no longer in the business of religion who firmly believes that many professed “religious” people haven’t updated their thinking about the nature of “g*d” in thousands of years…I think I have failed miserably.
Have patience and indulgence toward the people…Yeah, Uncle Walt, right.
Take off your hat…Check. I typically don’t wear a hat. When I do wear a hat in the winter the only time I take off my hat is to give my head a furious scratching to relieve the burning and itching of hat-head. One day, a co-worker and I took off our hats at the same time and scratched together. He said, nonchalantly, “A good hat-head scratching is orgasmic.” Amen!
Go freely with…A BIG check here. I work with them, daily. Powerful, lovely people. Real people. “Uneducated” people by the “standards” of “educated” people. Young people punching the clock day in and day out, in their early-20’s and, get this, who have been doing so for YEARS already since they graduated high school. And the single mothers? Even at $15 an hour with Amazon’s fantastic benefits a single mother struggles. Many at Amazon have two jobs. A single mother WITH TWO JOBS… MAGA!?! (See my wealth disparity comment above.)
Re-examine all you have been told…Another BIG check. I am a big fan of “Been There Done That.” How about striving to repair the entire order of Creation one incremental step at a time rather than focusing on walling off our small corner of the universe?
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul…Daily.
And your very flesh shall be a great poem…Flesh that takes longer to recover after three hours of volleyball or a BURN workout. Flesh that enjoys more reclining and napping. Flesh that gets up more frequently during the night to go pee. Flesh that proves gravity works. Flesh that requires more types of medication to properly function. And, interestingly, a greater sense of comfort and belonging in my own flesh than I had when I was younger. So, yes, I guess my flesh is a great poem!
All of this 2018 resolution stuff pales, though. No, not pales, fades to insignificance. No, not fades, either. Here it is: all this 2018 resolution stuff doesn’t amount to anything given that one daughter suffered through a horrific concussion that shut her down completely for two weeks and then this was immediately followed by a school shooting and one daughter committed suicide and one daughter is still looking for employment. I know that I am not the only one in my family who is saying, “Good riddance 2018!”
Yet there were some grand and good things in 2018. The overused axiom, “The worst brings out the best,” was shown to be true. The willingness of teachers at Noblesville to adjust for Bay’s “lights out” experience was a surprise blessing. Bay also nailed the SAT and was selected as a Rising Star of Indiana high school students. The outpouring of support, love and attention following Sydney’s death has sustained me and gets me up off the floor when sadness knocks me down. Corinne got engaged! She has also created a beautiful home with her beloved, Hunter, in her new hometown, filled with (I may get the numbers wrong…) three dogs, two goats and two flying rodent-type critters. I met an incredible woman who was sitting on a stool at the end of a bar…
Maybe I need to move on from Uncle Walt for my 2019 resolution. I am not a fan of the traditional resolutions. They leave too much wiggle room. While the resolution may sound grand I haven’t seen too many people concerned in July about the fact that they have failed miserably with either receiving, giving or fulfilling a wish for health, happiness, prosperity, success, satisfaction, good luck, joy, calmness, kindness, peace, love, journaling, calling Mom, improved diet, attending church, weight adjustment, etc., etc., etc.
There is a great deal for me to look forward to in 2019. My oldest is getting married in May! My youngest is going to find the college of her dreams where she will spend the next four years of her life! I will happily continue my fall into love!
Perhaps I need a different poem for 2019. (Sorry, Uncle Walt. Your words have inspired and motivated me for years but…) I was reminded of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day” not too long ago. Notwithstanding the fact that thinking about a summer day in the middle of an Indiana winter is delightful, the poem makes for a nice New Year’s resolution. So, how about this? In 2019 I resolve to live into the spirit of…
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Happy New Year for 2019 to my friends, family and loved ones!
Thanks, Eric. May we find ways to weave our threads with one another!
BTW, Our old friend Michael Patrick passed recently. Services on Sunday.