LETTER FROM NEW YORK – 3
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LETTER FROM NEW YORK – 3
January 1, 2009.
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, and an article in this morning’s New York Times confirms for me that blanket vows of good intentions are more or less pointless. The article quotes Alan Deutschman, author of “Change or Die,” (a book that asserts that even though most people have the ability to change they rarely do), who says “most of us think that we can change our lives if we just summon the willpower and try even harder this time around… but it’s exceptionally hard to make life changes and our efforts are usually doomed to failure when we try to do it on our own.” It would be a discouraging thought if it didn’t also suggest an alternative to renewed attempts at becoming smarter, thinner, richer (or whatever version of “better” we aspire to), which is: self-acceptance. But, of course, that can be just as hard to achieve as change!
As I see it, part of the problem might be that we’re programmed to think we’re in control, and if we’re not, we should be. It’s up to you to make the choices that will give you a better life, and of course, to a certain extent, that’s true. Most Americans are proud to have chosen Barack Obama as our next President, and we’re all hoping that twenty days from now, when he takes over, we might start to glimpse the beginning of the change he promises. But there’s also that other aspect of realizing that no matter what you do, the course of nature and certain events are beyond your power to affect. Unless you are a close consort of Bernard Madoff or the CEO of Lehman Brothers, there’s not much you personally could have done to prevent the current global economic meltdown. The average world citizen has no jurisdiction over the crisis in the Middle East, regardless of whether you side with the beleaguered Israelis or besieged Palestinians. We all want peace but beyond calling upon prayer or positive thinking, there’s not much we as individuals can do to attain it.
Strangely, I find there’s something liberating about this sense of powerlessness. It might be due to the fact that I’ve just returned from a trip to Nepal and a close-at-hand view of the Himalayas. Nothing really prepares you for the sight of these majestic mountains since not even the most evocative photograph can give you a true sense of their commanding presence. From a lake in the foothills, I watched the sun rise over Anapurna and Matchupichari with Everest in the distance. To see the snow-covered peaks emerge silver-gray from the black of night, then gradually turn from a pale golden pink to a fiery orange flame before settling into their bleached white daytime shrouds was awesome in the truest sense of the word. It’s clear Wo/Man is not in control here. The earth has managed, without the slightest effort from us, to create breath-taking vistas that not only please the eye but fill the soul. All we need to do is open our eyes, take a deep breath and appreciate what’s before us.
In the end, maybe that’s a resolution worth adopting: to keep my eyes open, to breathe more deeply and to value what’s in front of me. Which is, of course, acceptance – and not a bad way to start the New Year after all.
Let’s look for the best in 2009: in ourselves, in each other and in the world at large.
Thanks by Positanonews Amalfi and Sorrento Coast Newspaper (Il quotidiano online della Costiera Amalfitana e Penisola Sorrentina)