Many people like to start each new year by making resolutions.
And by resolutions, I mean rules set by people that they determine to follow in order to improve themselves in some way, with the logic that if they improve themselves, then their overall quality of life also will get better.
I find this logic to be sound.
However, I personally do not make resolutions. I am not good with ultimatums. If you want to make sure I do something, then tell me that I MUST do the opposite, or else. I am just funny that way.
I am thinking about this now because most resolutions are fizzling out, gasping their final breath, about this time.
And thoughts of resolutions have made me think about one of my favorite quotes from the Beat writer Jack Kerouac, that mad, drunken creative visionary whose greatest beauty was in his inability to perceive endings. To him, the Event Horizon simply did not exist.
He said: “Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”
This short sentence is rich with profound advice about daily mindful living more powerful than temporary, superficial “resolutions.”
Kerouac is admonishing us to wring every drop of life from each breath, to live with Fierce Presence.
The experience of going to a new place, whether the next town or another continent, teaches us things, if we allow it to. We see how other cultures and societies live. We are forced to interpret what we see, hear, and smell in any new place in order to make use of our new knowledge.
Perhaps we get to see for ourselves, to view with our own eyes, iconic objects we have heard about for our entire lives, such as a friend of mine who recently saw the Mona Lisa in person. When we step out into the unknown, travel shows us how much bigger the world is than our familiar patch of Earth. When we take in the beauty, all the desperate vices, the rhythm of the streets as we travel, we cannot help but learn and be changed by these lessons.
To Kerouac, life itself was an adventure.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles.”
The free Merriam-Webster Dictionary online defines “bless” as: “To make (something or someone) holy by saying a special prayer.”
Kerouac paid attention. He knew that when we ask for the best—for people, animals, places—that is usually what we ourselves receive.
and don’t be Sorry.
Kerouac is not saying we should avoid personal responsibility for our acts which result in harm. What he is saying is that we should not live permanently breathing in the fetid atmosphere of regret.
If we live with Fierce Presence, travel with open eyes and open mind, burn through our days, and render all that we encounter holy, it is unlikely that we shall be haunted by “should haves” and “might have beens.”
Now these–these admonitions–these are ideas that I can live with. And to them, I say “Amen.”
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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons