Thursday, January 2, 2014

#139 - Goals and Hopes for the New Year (or is that the other way around?)

Since everyone else tends to make their New Year’s Resolutions and voices their goals for the coming year on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, I thought I would buck the trend, being the procrastinator I am, and post my goals for the coming year on January 2. I will also share some of my hopes for 2014.

One of the hopes I have is that somehow, someway, people – especially those holding elective office – can find some way to return to some semblance of meaningful discussion and debate in 2014. Facebook and Twitter, while great for keeping in touch with family and long-lost friends and for spur of the moment comments and conversations, seriously suck as platforms for intelligent and meaningful discussion.

One line comments like “Obama is a socialist” or “Bush was a war criminal” or “[insert favorite topic/group to hate] should rot in Hell” do little to address issues facing our nation and the world as a whole and do even less to kick-start any meaningful conversation on said issues. One place to start this process would be to realize, as Thomas Merton wrote, that “no man is an island.” The actions of one city/state/nation do affect what happens in another city/state/nation, even if indirectly.

Nature does not recognize lines drawn on a map, and neither should we, at least not when it comes to environmental issues. If nothing else, we have to recognize and accept that what we do today will have an impact on tomorrow and that there is no way of predicting every possible outcome, especially if we only consider the immediate and short-term benefits.

Do I expect to see the quality of discourse and the level of civility reverse decades of decline in 2014? No, but a man can dream.

Another hope I have for 2014 is that the debate over gay marriage moves one step closer to being resolved once and for all. I think the tide started to turn in 2013, and I personally hope the momentum continues in the new year. I know there are those who argue that allowing gays to marry is an attack on traditional marriage and on traditional religious values, but I only see an attack on discrimination. As a heterosexual who has been married for 20 years, I’ve never understood how allowing two gay men or two gay women to marry threatened my marriage. There are plenty of other things that could threaten my marriage first, second, third, fourth, and so on, and gay marriage just doesn’t register on the list of potential threats.

I also don’t understand the religious argument against gay marriage. Some Christians say gay marriage goes against their beliefs. I accept that. However, their beliefs are their beliefs, not necessarily someone else’s. The Constitution forbids the establishment of a national religion, and imposing the beliefs of one group onto the nation as a whole goes against that. Of course, there are those clever wits who argue that the reverse is equally true. Not really. Whereas making the views of some opposing gay marriage the law of the land prevents some loving couples from marrying (much as earlier laws forbidding interracial marriage did), allowing gay marriage does not force two people of the same sex to marry one another.

To me, this is a Civil Rights fight, pure and simple. Of course, nothing is ever pure and simple in a nation of so many diverse peoples, cultures, and beliefs, so I expect this fight to continue for at least another few years. However, I think I will see gay marriage as legal in all 50 states in my lifetime.

Now that I’ve dealt with a few “political” topics, let me turn to some personal goals for 2014. In the coming year, I hope to take further steps toward improving my health. For me, that means continuing to improve the way I eat, lose some more weight, and – here comes that dreaded word – exercise. I have a few minor health issues to deal with first, namely some problems with my left shoulder, but I plan to begin working on this as soon as the doctors allow.

Even before the weather begins to warm, my mind is turning to thought of taking out our fifth-wheel. 2013 was a bit of a slow year for us in terms of getting out with the trailer, and my shoulder will keep us from getting off to a quick start with the RV in 2014. Still, I hope to improve on the number of nights we went out with the trailer in 2013. We have one trip booked so far and another one planned, so we are getting the ball rolling.

Going out with the RV allows me to do the only real exercise I enjoy – hiking. I want to do more of that in 2014 and perhaps find more hiking venues in and around Boise. Getting out of town with the RV also gets me closer to nature and, by extension, to God, and that is a good thing as it re-creates balance in my life. Although pronounced “rek-ree-ay-shun ,” recreation can also be seen as a re-creation of the self, and I certainly plan to approach it that way every chance I get this year.

My third goal for 2014 is to do a better job of staying in touch with friends and family. This blog gives me the opportunity to share with them and anyone who happens upon these pages what I’m thinking, feeling, and dealing with in-depth. I will work to make better and greater use of it this year. Facebook has been wonderful for helping me to reconnect with friends and family and has allowed me to engage in the banter that used to take place face-to-face. So I will continue to make use of that technological outlet. Twitter, not so much. One look at this blog should tell you that I would struggle with the 140-character limit on tweets imposed by Twitter. Only simple statements can made in short, simple sentences, and I don’t find those of much interest in terms of carrying on a conversation or a relationship.

The third outlet for staying in touch with friends and family comes courtesy of a cousin who, for several years, has graciously opened his home each summer for several days to a gathering of family and friends. My family and I have been lucky enough to attend the last two years and hope to do so again this year. Thanks, BJ!

Although there will, undoubtedly, be unforeseen things come up, the above list should be enough to keep me busy in 2014. May each of you also have a busy and productive year.

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