Good Resolutions are Simply Checks That Men Draw
on a Bank Where They Have No Account (Oscar Wilde)
Another New Year; another opportunity to set things right. For those of us who hope that we might be worthy of atonement, we typically set aside a chunk of time during this period for some serious introspection and reflection. We call this moral accounting system cheshbon hanefesh – an accounting of the soul. Hopefully I am not in overdraft. It’s pretty easy to list one’s shortcomings; resolving to do something about them, well….. Fortunately, this year Chabad has posted a fail proof tool to ensure that all of us can make good on our New Year resolutions. It’s called the Resolution Solution. Basically it works like this: You register your intention on their site and they will periodically remind you by e-mail of said resolution so you will never forget to work at it. At first glance I was tempted to bite. Then I got to thinking – Do I really want Chabad to send me a constant reminder that I should stop noshing so much? I don’t think so. Instead, I have decided to modify this year’s list of resolutions by keeping them somehow within the realm of the doable.
For starters, I will continue to cheer on my Cleveland Browns football team but I am resolved to keep this year’s whining to a minimum. This is no easy challenge. For more than 45 years I have loyally, some might say irrationally, supported what might be the most hapless team in all of professional sports – and the payback for such devotion? Character building certainly jumps to mind – to be a Browns fan is to embrace humility and to hope against all hope. To be a Brown’s fan is an affirmation of the promise that there is always next year.
Having resolved to keep the faith, my next proposition is to treat my body more humanely without having to resort to the word diet. As soon as you announce to somebody that you are on a diet you are pretty much doomed. “Why are you sneaking those chips?” “Are you sure it’s okay to have an extra scoop or three of ice cream?” “Hey, I thought you’re supposed to be on some kind of a diet?” Trying to reform a lifetime’s devotion to calories is hard enough without having to defend every periodic lapse of willpower. Judge me not for my weaknesses but for my good intentions and while you are at it, please pass the butter.
Next up on my to-do list is to stop telling people that I am from Toronto. I may have resided in Toronto for 10 years before moving to Jerusalem but I am a proud Hamiltonian at heart. For too long I have admitted to being a Torontonian simply because I have been too lazy to point out where Hamilton is on the map. The Hamilton of my youth was a great town to grow up in even if it lacked the sophistication of the big city to the North. Growing up in a small community taught me the value of tolerance and the importance of accepting the different; otherwise, life would have been very lonely. When I moved to Toronto to pursue my university studies I quickly discovered that size tends to breed insularity. Most of the people I came in contact with preferred to be surrounded by their own kind. Familiarity certainly has its advantages but it can also be very boring. If I have succeeded at anything in my life, it has been to amass a long and varied cast of eclectic personalities who have profoundly and thankfully shaped my worldview.
So my final resolution for the coming year is to continue practicing what I preach. As easy as that may sound, tolerance can test the strongest of us. I know, because I am a parent. Like all parents I have plenty of expectations from my children, but, so what? We raise our children to think for themselves and surprisingly enough, they do. The word tolerance is derived from the Latin tolerare, “to bear or to endure.” Tolerance is a two-way street and I will do my best to accommodate the other; in return, I simply ask that everyone kindly refrain from reminding me to put down my favourite chocolate bar.