I’ve been told that New Year’s resolutions are garbage, so I’m making some Eighth Day of Christmas resolutions to pursue during the next 365 days. Hopefully these won’t be garbage.
Among the goals regarding my spiritual life and physical health, I have resolved to return to writing on a regular basis. For a variety of reasons, I had taken a hiatus from public writing that was supposed to be a year, but stretched into nearly four. Now I believe it is time to begin again.
My goal has always been to tell the truth. Unfortunately, the truth does not always make people happy, and it certainly doesn’t engender affection for the speaker. Like most humans, I do enjoy being approved and liked, but I also suffer from a strong inclination to question popular mantras and seek underlying reality. Deconstructing a popular mantra makes one, well, unpopular.
The challenge of course is in presenting perspectives in a way that does not alienate and which might be persuasive. While I am certain that photo-shopped memes and personal attacks do little to persuade the persuadable, even presentation of cold data can upset readers. This problem has accelerated in the past few years, and as Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt note in their 2018 book “The Coddling of the American Mind,” many young people see themselves as fragile and interpret any intellectual challenge as a literal, physical threat. Not only do many of them expect to be kept “safe” from diversity of opinion, they perceive challengers as “evil” individuals who must be silenced by any means.
I would suggest that even before the trend described by Lukianoff and Haidt, many of us have been guilty of over-generalizations. If we hear certain headlines or bumper-sticker-length mantras frequently enough, we begin to accept them as facts, even the “truth.” We may not only believe in them, we actually invest in them on both an intellectual and literal level. Therefore, a challenge may not just interrupt a mere perception, but an entire life-path. Hence the animosity towards those who challenge our beliefs.
But I am resolved on this Eighth Day of Christmas to try to tell the truth anyway. Sometimes, of course, I will get it wrong, and I can only beg for grace in those inevitable circumstances. Sometimes my readers will disagree with my assessments, and I hope they will engage in non-personal, open-minded debate of any issue on the table. Although it may be at times with fear and trepidation, I am resolved to write about what I have learned, and what I see. To paraphrase Thomas Merton, if a writer is too cautious to write what may be criticized, he (or she) will never write anything that can be read.
If you want to help other people, you have got to make up your mind to write things some men will condemn.
My prospective readers will no doubt criticize, but hopefully find my offerings worth reading.
May your Eighth Day of Christmas be blessed.