Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year! All Year Long?

At the beginning of each New Year, many people make New Year resolutions.

And I'm no exception.

Each year I make the same resolution--the resolution that I made the year before. Perhaps you're thinking, "Boy, that's stupid! If you're making the same resolution year after year, then you ought to throw in the towel, and just ride out the upcoming year. It's clear you're not making much headway with your resolutions."

I could do that, but that would be uncharacteristic of me.

Here's what I resolve to do each year. I resolve to follow everyone's wish for me: to have a "Happy New Year." "But," you may say, "People don't really want you to take that literally. Sure they wish you a Happy New Year, but it's said out of tradition, out of their hope for you, not that they think it could actually happen. And if events come together to make a Happy New Year really a happy one, then that's all good. But the chances of that actually happening is farfetched and remote, and dependent on many things, many of which can't be controlled--such as, external events, implacable situations, and hopeless outcomes.

Why, then, would anyone want to make the effort to be always happy, or to be joyful, which is merely an exultant state of happiness? There's a very good reason: It's a God state. Despite the deplorable condition of our world, God is always joyful, and not moved to be discouraged. He's totally accepting, and giving. He's always blessings us, and loving us unconditionally. And He is always grateful for all that is.

In a similar fashion, I don't allow conditions to dictate my state of mind. I don't wait until I'm prosperous to be generous; to be in good health physically, or financially, to be in high spirits--to be happy, or joyful; to receive something of value to be grateful; to have others behave in certain ways, before I'm accepting, and loving; to have things go my way, or exist in certain ways, before I extend my blessing.

And from whom do I get the inspiration to forge ahead? Here's a little secret: I get it from those of you whose blogs I visit on the regular. Many of the names in my blogroll are of those who, in some way or another, inspire me.

Blinders Off is one. She writes about herself in this way: "Love myself first and most. Avoid negative sources, people, place, things, and habits. Believe in myself. [...] Take control of my own destiny. Visualize it. Want it more than anything. I am a one of many unique child of God creations, nothing can replace ME. I will continue to zero in on my target and go for it!"

Great stuff! I hope she won't mind me quoting her here. Here's a blog entry that she wrote some time ago. It sums up why I consider her an inspiration, and a heroine.

And then there's GrannyStandingForTruth. Here's what her profile states in part: "I am an ordinary woman who has lived an extraordinary and somewhat colorful life. I've been there, did that, done that. Many people have told me that I should write a book to share my life story and the many experiences I've had. However, I can think of way more people than me that have a story to tell that needs to be heard. Besides which, I just couldn't see my whole life on pages bound up in book being the free-spirited person that I am because stories have endings, and I'd like to think that every day I wake up is a new beginning with new experiences and many more new people to meet."

I like the "free-spirited person" that she is, with the courage of a lioness, and an eagerness to face each day with anticipation and a sense of discovery. Here's a blog entry, speaking out against the terror from within, that gives an indirect, word picture of the compassionate, and wise person, that she is.

Miriam, over at Black Fire, White Fire, lives in Israel. What a singularly beautiful black woman she is. I'm going to link to one of her blog entries to give you a taste of her blog, and her uncommon spirit and courage. After reading this, here and here, you'll understand why she's on my blogroll, and why she's an inspiration and a hero to me. I like the word heroine, but the word is not currently in vogue.

Blackgirlinmaine's weblog is another that inspire. She's funny, witty, human, and loving. Her humanity shines through her blog entries, and here is a recent one, written around the holiday season, that encapsulates the wonderful human being she is. It's called The Ugly Side Of Helping Others.

c.c.-kathy is another. She tells me that I inspire her (She calls it having a "positive influence". She doesn't know that she inspires me, as well. Here's a blog entry over at cognitive continuity, her blog's name, that will tell you everything I'd want you to know about kathy--her humanity, her ability to empathize, and her willingness to recreate herself in the grandest version of the greatest vision she's ever held of who she is, and who she might be.

Seda is yet another who I admire, and who's an inspiration. She writes about her own experiences with such nakedness (bearing her soul with such pure honesty), you can't help but be touched and inspired. I selected this blog entry to illustrate what it is about her that touches me. I think it'll touch you, too.

And then there's msladydeborah and her blog, From My Brown Eyed View. Would you like to know why she inspires me? Take a look at her first blog entry of the year. She's a fighter with a strong spirit, and a pluckiness that would inspire anyone.

Ernesto--not blogging as much as I'd like, his blog entries revealing a sharp intellect, and perspicacity--challenges me to bring to my writing that depth of thought that's reflected in his own writing. Here's a sample of why I find him, too, to be an inspiration. Published only a day after Christmas, it augurs for him greater adventures ahead.

And I mustn't forget sisterstation. She hasn't blogged since September, 09, but she's another blogger that tells it like it is, and does so with style, and panache. She uses words like so many knives--sharp and pointed--drawing blood with deft cuts across the American political and social corpus that even the victim slightly notices. Kathy is a regular visitor to her blog, but she clearly deserves a larger readership. Her humor, her humanity, and, best of all, her incisive intellect, keep me returning to her blog. If you'd like to know why I'm high on her, and find her an inspiration, read, not just one blog entry, but several. Here's a link to her blog.

Finally, there's daddyBstrong. I say finally, not because I couldn't include others--many of whom, in small or large ways, have inspired me to hold firmly to the high ground of my choosing--but I wouldn't want to tax your patience, or lose the focus of this piece.

DaddyBstrong personified strength and courage under fire. Little did we know--most of us who visited his blog regularly--that he was waging a silent war against cancer. Some knew, but most didn't. In the end, he lost his battle, but in many ways he won the war. His life is a testament to how to live on your own terms, despite knowing that each day may be your last.

I always wondered about his handle, daddyBstrong. Now I believe it served as a kind of mantra, a reminder of the state of mind he wished to maintain daily as he faced his mortality, and the inevitable. The man he was permeated his writings, especially his poetry. How he approached death inspired me as much as how he approached life.

DaddyBstrong showed us all how to fight a battle and win. You see, cancer may have taken him, but he didn't lose. He may have lost the battle, but he won the war: daddyBstrong lived and died according to his choosing.

Here is some of what he had to say on the first page of his blog: "But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

If you've never read his blog entries or his poetry, I would encourage you to acquaint yourself with this extraordinary individual, not by sitting down in his physical living room, but his virtual one, and catch up on conversations already in progress, conversations that will be with us for as long as his blog remains in cyberspace. There, in that electronic world, daddyBstrong will live among us forever.

Like each of you, I have crosses to bear, and challenges to meet. Yet, the crosses, and the challenges are not in charge. I am. I'm in charge, because I get to determine my state of mind in the midst of those challenges, and I invariably choose happiness, and even joy. What a blessing that is. Even pain doesn't have to cause suffering. As many have observed, they're not one and the same. Pain may not be an option, but suffering is. We get to decide how we'll contend with it, how we'll behave in light of it, what our disposition will be because of it, and how we'll act and react as a result of it.

And although I seek to maintain these God attitudes always, I'm not oblivious to the suffering of others, or the pain they're experiencing, nor the struggles that define their day, their hardships, their obstacles, their burdens, nor the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with which they contend. I'm keenly aware. I empathetically aware. I'm profoundly aware. And that awareness directs many of my actions, as I dig deeper to become more loving, more accepting, more joyful, more grateful, and more blessing--as I seek to bring these treasured attitudes to others, fully aware that, as I bring others to the experience, the more I get to experience the very experience I'm seeking to impart.

Please don't read this as a prescription as to how you should live your life. It's not that. It's how one person has chosen to live. Nothing more than that. Don't think, either, that my revelation here suggests that your life is not well, just as it is, and that you should adopt my approach. It's not that, either.

I have no preference in how you live your life. I have no preference in how you live out your years, and how you choose to confront life's many challenges. I have no preference as to what resolutions you make, or whether you make resolutions or not. I have no preferences at all.

That would take away your freewill--your prerogative to shape your life as you see fit, and to construct your world as you would fashion it. That is not to say that it wouldn't be gratifying if something I say here resonates with you, and you choose, as a result of that resonation, to adopt an idea or two presented here.

Notwithstanding all I've said, I wish you all a Happy New Year! all year long.

19 comments:

Greg L said...

BD,

Just reading this post here along with the entries on some of the other blogs you linked. Very inspiring and thoughtful.

Sometimes, we all get caught up it whatever we're doing, our challenges or our concerns and forget to appreciate the world that's larger than our immediate environs and the challenges that others face. I like the idea of separating happiness from circumstance. That alone would eliminate a lot of the stress and craziness that people encounter in life.

The challenge for most of us is to let go of what the world tells us we must have to be considered successful or to possess a degree of self worth. Your post, along with some of the others linked here are a reminder. Thanks for sharing, and have a Happy New Year!

Black Diaspora said...

Greg L, thanks for visiting. I hope you'll come again.

You write: "I like the idea of separating happiness from circumstance. That alone would eliminate a lot of the stress and craziness that people encounter in life."

Black folks use to live that way. Although poor by general standards, we were, nevertheless, a happy lot.

We supported each other. We didn't know what to call it then, it just came naturally. Later, sociologists would call it an "extended family."

Materialism was never a problem. Many black families couldn't afford to be materialistic, not that much discretionary money around after providing for food and shelter.

But we made up for it by being creative. For the girls, there were coke bottle dolls with rope for hair, that they spent hours braiding.

And for the boys, there were swords fashioned from wood, and guns from the same source. A little black shoe polish for paint, and fertile imaginations-- they had all the toys they needed.

Happiness for us didn't depend so much on what we had, but what we did with what we had.

And since that wasn't very much, the decision to just be happy anyway, was a natural next step.

Greg L said...

BD,

I think what you describe here was how most of America lived prior to the late 70's.

I truly believe that our desires were shaped by certain forces. The habits of frugality and lack of focus on material things did not align with the economic paradigm that emerged from the oil shocks and high inflation of the 70's and 80's. I think it was necessary to shape the behavior of the American public generally towards a consumerist oreintation in support of that paradigm. This was done with slick marketing and the enabling mechanism of easy credit. Our self worth become attached to how much we could consume or how much we had which drew us away from the moorings of the things that really matter. I believe that this the fundamental reason why people shifted from the behaviors you describe to being wedded to possessions. It was sold to us and many purchased the nonsense.

The good thing about any crisis is the fact that it forces a re-examination of belief systems mainly because they come under challenge. I'd consider that to be a good outcome from the current crisis.

c.c.-kathy said...

Black Diaspora,
Thank you so much for this post, and I am honored that you linked to my blog.
I didn't know that DaddyBstrong died, that is sorrowful news.

This blog post has the sound of Invictus. I always loved that poem, and I didn't know that the poem meant so much to Nelson Mandela until recently.

" Yet, the crosses, and the challenges are not in charge. I am." That is beautiful.

Black Diaspora said...

Hi Kathy, the honor is all mine. DaddyBstong's death caught us all off guard. Only a few knew he was dying, and I think he wanted it that way.

Through it all, he blogged often, treating us to his unique view of the world, by way of his prose and poetry.

With Invictus, I didn't know, either, the Mandela connection. But I can understand the appeal, given the particulars of his life.

Black Diaspora said...

The shift from a manufacturing economy to a consumer economy may have been inevitable, what with emerging nations' cheap labor pools, the general lack of protectionism at home, and the push for a free-market economy that benefited primarily those who could take advantage of the shift.

You're right: many forces came into play to facilitate this shift. Television helped with it steady stream of commercials and ads that built up dissatisfaction; planned obsolescence did its part as things were now built not to last, but to wear out and breakdown over time; as did the credit card boom which gave us easy, and quick access to the credit necessary to build the new economy, and allow us to purchase, and keep purchasing, as long as we could make the minimum payments that hung around like last Christmas' fruit cake.

You get the feeling that this was perhaps all orchestrated by stogy smoking men in backrooms who wanted to manipulate social behavior and make themselves rich at the same time?

"The good thing about any crisis is the fact that it forces a re-examination of belief systems mainly because they come under challenge. I'd consider that to be a good outcome from the current crisis."

An excellent statement. I agree: experience is the best teacher, and our "belief systems," and the values they produce, would benefit from an overhaul.

It was my hope that 9-11 would engender the kind of "reexamination" that you describe.

What we got, instead, or so it seems, because progress is rarely observable in the short-term, is the use of fear by one party to manipulate behavior, war on two fronts, a near collapse of our economy, spearheaded by unbridled greed, and assorted others (tea
partiers, et al) bemoaning what they say is this country's flirtation with communism, socialism, and Marxism, and the unflattering painting of our first black president as a Hitler, a Mussolini, or any other horrid historical character in an effort to denigrate him and his administration.

To say that I'm not sanguine about our generally ability to use "crises" and tragedies to force the kind of "self-examination" that would compel change, is an understatement.

But having said that, I am optimistic about our future. Other forces are even now coming to the fore, and conflating, to compel what our conscience, and an internal examination have failed to do.

Greg L said...

>>>>>What we got, instead, or so it seems, because progress is rarely observable in the short-term, is the use of fear by one party to manipulate behavior, war on two fronts, a near collapse of our economy, spearheaded by unbridled greed<<<<<

Yes, the previous administration used fear to press its case, but both sides blessed this and there were few voices raised in objection from democrats. Actually, you raise a very good point here about crises that I overlooked. They can be used to shape agendas and this clearly was the case here.

Of course, there's an economic component to war as well and that is as much of an outgrowth of the loss of the manufacturing base as changes in overall behavior of individuals. I was having a discussion with someone a few days ago about wars in general and the point came up that quickly winning a war is not very profitable. If you happen to be an arms manufacturer or in a related industry, economic growth means constant war except for when it comes to your own shores. But as long as you can keep it away from your shores, why not fight two wars for the price of three or four?

The foreign policy of the nation is pretty constant, regardless of which party occupies the white house or the congress as far as I can see. Obama is spending $ 1.0 million for each soldier deployed for the Afghan conflict which I see as a collosal waste of money.

I'm from the school of thought that says we can't afford the far flung military bases we have, nor can the money we spend on weapons development be sustained. We need to cut back sharply. The only individual who consistently decries this is representative Ron Paul.

Basically, I see the two political parties being pretty similar in this particular area, with the only difference being Obama and the dem's tend to use a velvet glove while Bush behaved like an uncouth cowboy. The outward appearance of either is what I consider to be "marketing", but there's really no substantive difference in what either does.

>>>>>and assorted others (tea
partiers, et al) bemoaning what they say is this country's flirtation with communism, socialism, and Marxism, and the unflattering painting of our first black president as a Hitler, a Mussolini, or any other horrid historical character in an effort to denigrate him and his administration.<<<<<<<

I have my problems with some of Obama's policies, however, I'd tend to agree that this sort of discourse is uncalled for. It's what folks are left with when they prefer not to discuss facts.

Ernesto said...

BD...thanks for the mention, I am honored by your kind words. Thanks also for linking so many great blogs. I wish I had more time to read as well as write.

"I don't allow conditions to dictate my state of mind."

This is one area I need to improve on. I'm "a try and do better" in 2010. Yes, I RESOLVE to. :)

Blinders Off said...

BD,

Thank you, I am honored to be mentioned in this post. MS is the least of my problems write now...trying to kick the nicotine habit is taking me through some MAJOR changes.

Black Diaspora said...

@Ernesto: "'I don't allow conditions to dictate my state of mind.'

"This is one area I need to improve on. I'm 'a try and do better' in 2010. Yes, I RESOLVE to."

A mind made up is a powerful force.

Black Diaspora said...

"MS is the least of my problems write now...trying to kick the nicotine habit is taking me through some MAJOR changes." Blinders Off

On your blog, I didn't offer suggestions for quitting.

If you'll allow me, I'll tell you how I managed to quit. In the previous post, I wrote:

"A mind made up is a powerful force." And so it is.

Decide to quit. Don't do it in a wishy washy, or namby pamby way. Really decide within your being to be a nonsmoker.

And don't decide once. Decide again, and again. Decide with vigor. Decide with certainty. Decide with the assurance that you have quit, and that this is the end of it all.

You're stronger than you know.

Decide that YOU ARE a nonsmoker. According to the firmness of your decision will it be done unto you.

I hope this helps.

This is how I quit smoking many years ago. I was smoking Camels, no filter, two packs, plus, a day.

By the way, a firm decision will work in other areas of your life as well.

Blinders Off said...

Thanks again BD

Decide to quit. Don't do it in a wishy washy, or namby pamby way. Really decide within your being to be a nonsmoker.

And don't decide once. Decide again, and again. Decide with vigor. Decide with certainty. Decide with the assurance that you have quit, and that this is the end of it all.


I know that is the answer and I know I WILL succeed.

Black Diaspora said...

"I know that is the answer and I know I WILL succeed." Blinders Off

Good for you. You're still in my prayers....

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

Hey BD:

That was a lovely post. Wow! I'm humbled that you've been inspired by me because as far as I am concerned it is you who has always inspired me.

Sometimes that spirit within will let me take a glimpse into people's heart. You've always been a person who was shown to me as a deep intellectual scholar with a meek and humble spirit. If you remember, I use to call you a scholar.

BTW, I totally agree with you about Blinders, she is a very dynamic and powerful woman who is strong in spirit. In addition, I agree with you about the others that you paid tribute too. They are all unique and beautiful people. I am honored that our paths have crossed by the way of blogs.

sisterstation said...

I too am honored and humbled to have been mentioned, and you must also include your own voice in these accolades. You are an oasis of calm coherence coupled with great intellect. You ALWAYS make me think.

Black Diaspora said...

@Granny: "They are all unique and beautiful people."

Hi Granny. Indeed they are, each and everyone of them.

"If you remember, I use to call you a scholar."

I remember, and thank you. It's nice to be so regarded.

@sisterstation. Thank you. I've probably run your visitors' count meter up in anticipation of your next blogging gem.

I pray all is well with you.

sisterstation said...

Thank you again, Black Diaspora. I am better now than I was. I had to be treated for Lyme disease, then found out I had a couple of deficiencies which are now being corrected, although for a while it felt like it was all I could do just to slither around thru my day.

Mentally, there has just been a huge frustration about the political climate, and most especially the dishonesty of the right, in doing every thing possible to derail health care reform, and then when they have very nearly succeeded, crying "see, see, it's all your fault"

Lately I keep seeing an image of Obama as "Gulliver", when he has been tied down by the Lilliputians. But Gulliver managed at length to break himself free, and so, I imagine will Mr. Obama.

I hope all is well for you in this new year. Today I imagine most of us feel a little consumed by the tragedy that is Haiti. I keep thinking of that line "cry the beloved country" Cry and then attempt to mobilize is all you can really do.

Black Diaspora said...

@sisterstation. I'm happy, very happy, to hear that you're better.

You had me worried for awhile, and I'm glad that you're recovering.

On health-care reform, I'm hearing that some big announcement is only minutes away.

If it lacks cost containment, it will be a big disappointment.

Scenes and images from Gulliver's Travels offer apt descriptions and analyses of our current political landscape.

I am well, and pray that your health continues to mend throughout the year.

Haiti is in my heart, and in my prayers. Today, we're all Haitians. And I'll be Haitian until the weight of this disaster is no longer a crushing force, and the Haitian people can see the glimmer of a new day on the horizon.

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