January 1, 2016
“I don’t like work – no man does – but I like what is in the work – the chance to find yourself. Your own reality – for yourself not for others – what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
– Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”
Today begins a new year. A new hope. A new inspiration. A new set of worries, successes and failures. Many people begin the year with a resolution dedicated toward improving upon a weakness in their lives. Sticking to a resolution obviously involves hard work, which means the new year begins with hard work.
Before we look at some words of wisdom, exploring the various definitions of the word resolution may grant insight into the lives we lead as well as the reasons we seek something new. According to Merriam-Webster, resolution is defined as:
– act of resolving and/or solving
– act of answering, finding an answer or solution to a conflict or problem
– act of determining
– passing of voice from a dissonant to a consonant tone. Progression of dissonance to consonance
– formal expression of opinion, will or intent, voted by an official or an assembled group
– a device’s ability to show an image more clearly and with a lot of detail
– the point in a dramatic work in which the dramatic complication is worked out
– process or capability of making distinguishable the individual parts of an object, closely adjacent optical images, or sources of light.
These definitions vary from the idea of completion (as in the end of a novel) to a mere enhancement (as in images). In other words, we clarify at the same time that we resolve and vice versa. Life becomes a little bit clearer as we dance on the edge of hardship. Resolutions inevitably change us, and it is exactly that change that we seek.
Resolution comes from the Latin resolvere, which originally meant to untie, unbind, loosen, release or open. The idea of opening oneself to the new can cause fear, but also excitement. The new will present challenge, unknowns, perhaps danger, and most of all, work. We hope that all the work will lead to the attainment of a worthy goal. Resolutions are interesting because of their individual nature. Each person can create or alter the resolution in a way that best fits their lifestyle. A new year’s resolution does not mandate a complete change from our previous lifestyles, but only that we work on a new goal, open ourselves to the better, to the clarity that comes from testing ourselves.
Janus, the Roman god of transitions, faces both forward and backward, asking us to also measure the new year against the last. This measure of our past helps to create a worthwhile, accurate and productive resolution. In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius offers many enduring words of wisdom that challenge us. In careful, measured thoughts, he reveals keys to a healthier self. The following words of Aurelius are appropriate for today’s celebration as we measure both this year and the last. Happy New Year!
Matter. How tiny your share of it.
Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it.
Fate. How small a role you play in it.”
“Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been. We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”
“It can only ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you – inside or out.”
“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”
“Constant awareness that everything is born from change. The knowledge that there is nothing nature loves more than to alter what exists and to make new things like it. All that exists is the seed of what will emerge from it. You think the only seeds are the ones that make plants and children? Go deeper.”
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