Notes from the Perimeter

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dancing in the New Year


(Please read "Yes We Did" after this one -- I haven't figured out to slip a blog into a sequence!)

A week into the new year and I’m guessing that most people are already hard at work breaking the resolutions they so hopefully made as fireworks burst and champagne bubbled. Not me. This new year feels, well, new: brand new, full of optimism and possibility. I want my resolutions to be, in the latest vernacular, fierce. No whiney diet decrees or wimpy exercise intentions on my list – I’m thinking big this year.

Resolution 1: Remember the true power of giving. Back in the glorious heyday of hippie-dom, one of my San Francisco friends, Siddhartha (actually I think he had grown up as Stanley Figbottom) had a theory about money which he practiced with gusto: in his view, money was energy -- the more one put it out into the world the more one got it returned. It seemed to work for Siddhartha; despite no visible means of support, other than an occasional gig as a “therapist,” he always seemed to get by. He literally would give you his last buck if you needed it and others were equally generous back to him. As you might imagine, I found his to be a most gratifying philosophy.

Granted, those were simpler days. Those practicing that heady form of freedonomics found we eventually had to grow up, stop trusting a wacky spiritual version of the first law of thermodynamics and acquire jobs, credit scores, and debt. Our calculus of finance became computation, not faith. But as I contemplate the fiscal catastrophes that confront us, I believe that Siddhartha was on to something.

Everywhere are admonitions to give. The underlying message: give (money, time, energy) and you will receive (satisfaction, pleasure, a date). However, perhaps there is a more profound reason to give than the urge to do good, the intangible payback, the star by your name on the karmic ledger.
Giving in a context of scarcity is a gesture of courage and defiance. When you don’t have much to give but you give anyway you’re staking a claim in the future, affirming your ability to triumph over the worst of circumstances. To give of what you have, even with only crumbs in the cookie jar, is ultimately an act of personal power. When the world says nay, giving says “yes, I can.” Like Sid.

Resolution 2: Make someone mad every day. Many of us are driven by the need to win the approval of others. We want to be loved or at least liked. We go along to get along. However, taking the easy route, to gain sanction or avoid censure or confrontation, comes with a price, the risk becoming timid: afraid to speak our minds, to challenge authority, to boldly go… anyway. This is our time to stand up, in our daily dealings as well as in on the national scene. I’m not suggesting Rod Blagojevich as a role model, although one has to admit the guy has chutzpah. What I’m challenging myself to do when faced with a choice – to speak up or keep silent, to protest or concede, to defy or to pander – is to do what’s most difficult. It’s bound to make someone mad and maybe that’s a good thing.

Resolution 3: Intend the impossible. I mean to dance with Barack Obama at an Inaugural Ball. There, I’ve said it. Extremely unlikely, of course, but not utterly impossible. I do have an Inauguration ticket and I plan to be at some ball that night. And I’m a wicked good dancer. Mister President-elect, if you see this, I’m asking: just one dance. Half a dance. One twirl around the floor. Your fantastical election was less improbable than my wish for a dance but still…I have the audacity of hope.

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