Testimonies, not resolutions
Well, it’s over half way through the month. The fad of the new year resolution posts has now passed. That little pause gave me time to reflect on what follows. I’ve elected not to do “resolutions” this year, and possibly not ever in the future. Most resolutions fail, quickly and spectacularly. What I want are long term changes.
I’ve mentioned it before on here, but for about a year now I have been attending my local Quaker meeting, and it is my intention to apply for membership sometime next year. Quakers, at least in the UK, live by four main testimonies, which are the application of faith in practice. They are the closest things Quakers have to a creed.
So my “resolutions”, such as they are, are these four testimonies.
Peace is not just the absence of conflict. It is an active state to be worked for. Quakers seek to “take away the occassions for all war”. I am someone who is quick to anger. A focused anger can be a good thing, it can initiate change for the better. But unfocused rage can be destructive. My own anger has in the past been unfocused, turned inwards. I’m looking for peace within myself. And then in a wider sense, what do I actually do to contribute to peace in the world. Do I speak out against those things that cause conflict? Do I work to resolve those conflicts, or do I close my eyes and claim it is not my problem? Externally and internally, peace is something that requires as much, if not more work, than it takes to be in conflict.
Just as I can ask whether I close my eyes to causes of conflict, do I close my eyes to inequalities in our society? Gender, race, sexuality, social standing, nationality, political opinion. Rather than being judgmental, can I look beyond my own prejudices to the person, not the category? I am conscious that I am dismissive and offhand with a lot of people I come into contact with. They are equal to me, and I am equal to them, and that attitude should permeate all I do.
This is possibly the hardest one to speak about. I have struggled with truth in my life, and it has cost me dearly. The absence of truth has caused immeasurable pain to those I love, my family, my close friends. For Quakers, even dissemblance and white lies are unacceptable. I have rarely been completely honest in my life, so time to start being honest with myself, about myself, and in my dealings with others.
Honesty does not just mean telling the truth however. It is about integrity, about being true to yourself, in your words and actions. And so I can no longer shuffle along and deny my own wishes in exchange for a quiet life of not rocking the boat. I want to write. I want to paint. I want to be an artist. And so that aspect of my life has to be one of my highest priorities, because anything else is not inkeeping with my own true self.
Originally, simplicity was to do with manner of dress and speech, but now it has come to embrace such issues as environmentalism and good stewardship. Over a period of some months I have started to become less attached to “things”. I realise that I don’t need much, materially, to be happy, and even those things that I take, such as books, I am happy to pass on, rather than hoard. Simplicity to me is about only acquiring that which is essential, making do with what I have, and making choices that do not unduly burden the planet, or society. Reducing my waste, my consumption, and being more frugal in my choices cause an uncluttering that introduces a simplicity to life leaving me with more time.
As with so many other things, this all sounded so much better in my head, and perhaps I will regret posting it? But I want to put these things out there, to hold myself accountable for the things I believe, the way I want to live, and to speak honestly about things that are important to me.