It’s hard to believe we’re now more than a week into 2018, nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century. With the turn of the calendar, many people have been busy making New Year’s resolutions. It’s a long-standing tradition that grew out of an ancient ritual. Babylonians are thought to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions – about four thousand years ago – though on a different calendar than the one we use today in most of the world. Their resolutions were often centered on loyalty to the king or promises to their gods. Over time, the first day of the new year became a traditional turning point for reflecting on past mistakes and resolving to do better in the future.
Though I try to do it more than once a year, the new year frequently serves as an opportunity for me to reflect and consider what goals and qualities I want to change, pursue, and practice. This year, together with some friends and family, I’ve resolved to be more contemplative, positive, and joyful while working steadily with others to effect change. The previous year has felt too negative, with distraction after distraction. I’d like to embrace the songwriter Irving Berlin’s words made famous by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: “Let’s face the music and dance.” At the same time, I don’t think we should bury our heads in the sand and ignore the need that exists. Fortunately, there’s a way to be realistic, optimistic, and responsive – as reflected in the evolution and dual meaning of the word resolution.
The word resolution stems from the Latin resolutionem and the past participle resolvere, or “resolve,” meaning to loosen or release. What a great time to release the negativity and distractions of the past year. It also indicates a sense of solving a problem. Well, we could use more problem solving this year and in the years to come! Today, the word resolute commonly connotes a firm hold on a position of purpose. I can’t think of a better time to consider our purpose and hold firm to principled commitments like justice and compassion.
As we move forward in the new year, I hope we’ll make use of the many connotations of the word resolution – that we will let go of pessimism, loosen our attachments to meaningless interruptions, embrace empathic and effective solutions, and respond to the people and animals who need us most.
What will you release, solve, or hold firmly to in the coming year?