An Outrageous Resolution

To resolve, to make a resolution, a firm decision, a commitment.

I have long been drawn to New Year’s resolutions. I like the idea of starting, of beginning a journey, of heading off to someplace new, to being something new. A resolution can have that sense of directional impulse. Why not go forward with purpose?

When I was young man I shared my resolutions with others. They proved to be poor catalysts for conversation, so I stopped talking about them. Instead I took to writing them down, prioritizing them, and irregularly checking on progress. My lists have been surprisingly consistent over the years. Or maybe there’s little surprise in that. They speak, collectively, to an imagined kind of life and an aspirational version of yours truly. I’ve kept them attainable, too, like SMART goals. No space travel or circuses on my lists.

Yes, I have resolved to weigh less – and some years I do. Right now, thanks to a host of injuries and the pandemic, I weigh more. Weight loss and increased exercise always head the national lists of New Year’s resolutions. In past years I have resolved to own property. Some years ago I did. I do not now and at some future point, I will resolve to own property again. I have resolved to be a better and more faithful communicator with friends and family. You may have received an email or a call from me. If so, a check to the good. You may not have – and if that’s the case, I’m sorry. But it’s a new year. And as I’m writing now, my failures do not prevent you from writing to me. It would be lovely to hear from you.

One year I resolved to play the piano. Hours of practicing led to lame renditions of “Over the Rainbow” and some halting Christmas carols. All best intentions aside, I don’t have much talent for the keyboard. I wish that I did. Nor do I seem to have much aptitude for juggling, handstands, or foreign languages. And to all those who continue to help me with Spanish, I’m eternally grateful and humbled. I do work at it every day, todos los dios. Spanish is always on my new year’s list. It would be nice, though, if I made more progress. Maybe in 2022.

I would resolve to write more. That’s a recurring promise to self. Blog posts, letters and emails do not count in my head, though I certainly seem to spend enough time with them. That is a topic for another day, another post.

This year I’m going to try something different, a resolution inspired and influenced by what we see in the news, in the public sphere, on social media. I am going to resist any and all calls for outrage. In fact, I’m going to try to work against outrage when I see it. Stirring up outrage is a sign of cheap leadership. I believe that it exacerbates difference, driving us apart and inhibiting communication and trust. I’ve found little benefit in feeling outraged, personally or collectively. It doesn’t seem to make things better. When I recall moments of outrage a questioning voice is immediately heard in my head. “Was outrage really the best way to handle it?” The answer is always “no.” That seems to hold true no matter how righteous my indignation, my outrage, felt at the time.

The resolution does not mean that I will be indifferent. The absence of outrage will still allow for strong sentiment, passion and urgency. We can address important issues with urgency without outrage. In fact, I think that thoughtful urgency is more needed than ever.

Here’s to wishing you a healthier new year, a more prosperous new year, and, dare I hope, a more tolerant new year. Let’s see what we can do together without all the outrage.

David Potash