Finding Meaning

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Divine Resolutions

By Skip Hellewell

The best argument for a divine origin of us humans? New Year’s resolutions. Plain and simple. It defies mortal reckoning, the way we annually will ourselves to rise above ourselves. Remember the poetic phrase, “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps?” We attempt this when we write resolutions. Though our failures may exceed our triumphs, we can’t stop trying. God’s presence is evidenced by this inborn instinct to improve.

Did you write resolutions for 2018? How did you do? The cynics report that 80 percent of resolutions fail, with many forgotten by February. Doubting souls deem resolutions a futile effort, but we find meaning in the practice. Here are three keys for resolutions you would normally have to attend a $500 seminar to learn.

The first is to ignore the cynic’s criticism that 80 percent of resolutions fail. Focus on the 20 percent that succeed. Twenty percent just might be the critical mass that keeps the human race moving upward, rather than downward. Maybe that was the fatal failure of the extinct Neanderthals—too few resolutions on those cave walls. To understand the second key, here’s a family story.

The sister’s tree.

My older sister lives in San Francisco, in a home that either survived the 1906 earthquake, or was built just after. It’s in a historic neighborhood and enjoys an extraordinary view of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. For the holidays, she orders a 10-foot Christmas tree that requires two days of work just for the lights. Her husband isn’t so much into this, but it’s a tradition that he reads a book to her while she installs the 2000 or so ornaments. This sets the scene for an annual dinner in which the main topic is the sharing of New Year’s resolutions, preceded by an accounting of our prior promises. We’ve been doing this for 40 years.

In a few days, the Beautiful Wife and I will drive there, returning the next day. That’s 14 hours of driving to account for our resolutions. We also get to catch up with each other and enjoy a dinner of crab salad, ham, scalloped potatoes, and homemade cheesecake. But the resolutions structure the event. Our mom, who turns 99 in January, brings a record of our prior resolutions and demands an accounting, including the percent complete. She even challenges our percentage, but that’s what comes with moms. So, there’s step two: Share your written resolutions with loved ones. Their support can make the difference.

Step three is to see the good in trying. You may have forgotten your resolution by February, but it made you a better person in January. And that brighter moment becomes part of you. When we work to better ourselves, we also affirm our divine nature. Maybe William Wordsworth was thinking of this when he wrote,

“But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God who is our home…”

The BW and I wish you a Happy New Year, even with those one-month resolutions. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected].

 

Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m.  There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

 

 

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