So, we are carving our way into 2014 aren't we?
These few first weeks of January are a time when we like to look back. We are coasting a bit off the good feelings of "the holidays" and have the added blessing of a return to normal life. Now is the time when we reflect and--sometimes--plan how to change that part of our lives that has been bothering us the most. Of course, these "resolutions" don't always quite stick. I remember that when I was growing certain people I know would unveil various versions of what they would call "The New Me". Most of these iterations looked a lot like the old them. This is probably why most years I don't bother to make a resolution. It is hard to change.
However, every once in a while forces conspire to push us in a particular direction and we do make changes. At those times it makes sense to try to get ahead of that urge we feel inside us to alter our reality and break out of our rut. NPR pundits counsel us to aim for "doable" (read: small, measurable) goals. That isn't how I work. Something like that invites failure--if I even bother to notice that I failed. For me the new year is a chance to turn over a big leaf. It has to be something that will make a noticeable difference.
So here is my resolution: I want to arrest my slow decline into intellectual laziness. Yeah, it may sound frivolous to you but to me it is very important. I am happier if I have somewhere for my brain to go. If it doesn't have a home, it tends to spin out to focus on whatever tragedy or problem it can find. It can be real or imagined, past, present, or future. In any case, I will find it. Then I get sullen. I become grumpy. It drives my family crazy. It may even drive the church crazy for all I know.
You see, usually I have something going on. This blog has helped with various projects and you can find references sprinkled about that address them. Music, worship, and my sabbatical homeschooling all have had their time of intense scrutiny. My DMin program in preaching took up a vast amount of intellectual energy. Now "Norm" is happily ensconced in Middle School. I graduated from my DMin program and the major questions about the other areas I have either answered to my satisfaction...or I have lost interest. I still preach, pray, lead worship, and play hymns and such on the uke (obviously) but they don't take up as much time as they did.
Also, I have cut back on certain hobbies. I don't brew nearly as much beer as I used to. I am boycotting the NFL. This all adds up to the need for more studies.
Anyway, the NPR folks will be happy to know that I do have a plan, of sorts. It has many facets but they can basically be forced into three groups...
1) Spend time getting educated about random stuff.
Lately I have been working through various epic Ken Burns documentaries. I started with "Baseball". Now I am on "Jazz". In one sense these are eye-gougingly dull. Sometimes I suspect the family would rather take their chances we me being bored and grumpy if it meant hearing less about Joe Jackson and Sidney Bechet. In another way it is very helpful. I know very little about these things and each time I sit down to a boring documentary my brain thanks me afterward.
The same can be said for long books about the Civil Rights movement in Memphis, apparently. Also, I am on a kick about 19th Century sermons, which leads me to area Number 2...
2)Take full advantage of my Boston Athenaeum membership.
Actually, I already use the Athenaeum a whole lot, but now I am going to be more intentional about it. For starters, the place, itself encourages you to think. There is the art museum. There is the silence. There are the many, many books that are hard to find anywhere else. There are also the comfy chairs to read (or sleep) in. It is fantastic!
My plan is to attend lectures. I have picked out three this winter and if I make even one I will deem it a success. I will see all the exhibits this year. I also plan to mine the library's depths for sermons and essays by late 18th and early-mid 19th century clergy. Right now I have to wrap up the James Freeman Clarke collection I got out a couple of weeks ago. But that should be fun.
3)Manage some sort of project.
I am not sure what this will be. It will probably integrate some of the things I mentioned earlier. I am very curious about some of my predecessors here at Eliot Church, for example. Clarke and Hedge are always interesting. However, so far I haven't found just the thing to get ridiculously excited about. Until then, I will just have to do with goals #1 and #2.
To some of you this may seem like too much. For others it might appear lazy. I think, however, it will work for me. Family and congregation can expect to put up with a certain about enthusiasm from me about topics that may seem a bit eccentric. If you see these folks creeping into readings and sermons, that will be why.
So, what are you doing this year? Many will choose to do nothing in particular and that is fine. Others will be seeking to do more in the community, spend more time with family, loose weight, quit smoking and any other number of things. Whatever your goal, I wish you well.