This past weekend, the Wall Street Journal published the followng reflection on New Year's Day that Mark Twain wrote back in 1863:
New Year's Day – Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.
Brilliant, cynical, and sarcastic, that Mr. Twain. He was also frequently accurate.
It is not through our preordained lot that we need not make good our resolutions and “cast our reformation to the winds.” We aren't bound to act this way.
Here are a couple traits we should resolve to practice more in 2013 that, if we indeed practice and observe them fairly regularly, will amount to all sorts of unexpected and incalculable energy that makes the world a better place.
Here is the first trait: Be nice and chill.
Really. There are people who have justifiable reasons to be upset, and have bad attitudes. Yet many of us get all in a tizzy about minor things, like the line being too long at Starbucks, or your printer ran out of ink, or you don't have quarters for the meter, or someone is on the machine at the gym that you want to use, right now.
Just relax and smile and take it slow. Remember that there are people who know true and extraordinary pain and hurt at the same time that you are backed up in traffic.
And when you are inclined to get angry because someone took a parking space you coveted, remember there are 18 and 19 year old American soldiers in the Middle East.
Smile and laugh and spread the cheer, and it will continue. Exercise common courtesy. Extend a word of congratulations and support.
Release good and positive energy into the atmosphere and good things can happen.
And here is the second trait: be thankful for what you have.
If you don't have a lingering or serious illness, and you have a warm place to lay your head, enough nutritious food, a good friend or two, and are able to read an enriching and entertaining book, then you – taking into account the bigger cosmos of things – live in luxury.
Consider the vast populations of people around the world who don't enjoy what we know to be essentials.
I return here to the wisdom of Mr. Twain: “Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
Tough to argue with that.
You know, here in America, you can meet the federal standard of being poor and have a home, a big screen TV, plenty of food, heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and access to a quality education and quality medical care.
That's not to say we don't have a lot of hurt in this country – for we surely do – but a little perspective goes a long way in bringing about a feeling of contentment and happiness.
So those are just a couple traits to hold on to and practice over and over in 2013.
We do this, then we make better the world.
Happy New Year!