Vision: The Mull Before the Swarm by Howard Hanger

December 8, 2016 |

Some of my favorite New Years’ resolutions are:

  • I resolve not to play bagpipes even if I can.
  • I resolve to possibly make firm decisions.
  • I resolve to remember that a wasted weekend isn’t necessarily a wasted weekend.
  • I resolve not to believe everything I think.
  • I resolve that if I can’t do something well, to learn to enjoy doing it badly.
  • For the last few New Years, I have resolved not to make any more resolutions.

But, the time when our calendar years bump up a notch is only one of the times when we silly humans make resolutions.

Take the holidays, for example. About mid-November, I begin to feel what folks who live on the side of a sometimes-active volcano must feel. I begin to feel a rumbling.  Reverberating. Deep beneath our cultural crust, I sense a magma shifting around, growling and grumbling, similar to the way my stomach behaves after a night of anchovy tacos and jello shots.

About a week or so before turkey time, there seems to be a general restlessness on the loose. In grocery lines, from total strangers, you hear things like, “I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas again.” Or, “Holy Jamoley, where has the year gone?” Or, “Guess it’s a good thing I never took down my holiday lights from last year. Ha-ha.”

In the meantime, every retail shop has been decorated, festooned and ornamented since Labor Day, reminding you of what’s coming. You often see Santa in the stores before you see witches and jack o’ lanterns.  So with merchants having decked the malls with boughs of holly – fa-la-la-la-la – for at least 3 months, you’d have to be a few Fruit-loops short of a full bowl to not know the holidays are headed your way.

Then, about mid-November, as the holiday media momentum comes at you like a herd of horny hyenas, the pre-holiday resolutions begin: “This year, I’m not going to get stressed out.” “This year, I’m going to take more Xanax.” “This year, I’m going to get my shopping done early.” “This year, I’m going to de-emphasize gifts.” “This year, I’m not going to let Uncle Max do his ‘pull-my-finger’ joke again and again.”  “This year, I’m going to lay off the eggnog at the family gathering before I do another table dance to ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise.’”

Sometimes the resolutions start with a gathering of friends communing with beer and pizza. Sometimes they get splattered through the pages of Facebook. Now and then you hear them suggested from the pulpit by well-meaning-if-just-as-clueless clergy. Sometimes you read them in a blog or hear them from some book-selling psychologist on Oprah.

But, often, these resolutions come silently as the crazy wonder of this miracle-season cascades into our living rooms.  They float through our brains and hearts as a kind of contemplative reflection. My sense is that none of us really knows what to make of this these holy days. Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas – ancient celebrations of miracles.  Ancient traditions stirred in with personal memory upon memory.  We say, “Holidays are for kids.” And, maybe that’s because kids haven’t yet been bequeathed that Santa-sized-sack of emotional baggage which comes with the holy days.

So, maybe all the pre-Thanksgiving resolve we make each year is some kind of kooky little ritual which helps us prepare to celebrate things we can never comprehend.  Maybe these promises and pledges we make and break are a kind of a personal call to worship and wonder.  Kind of a psychological or religious red carpet we lay out for the old stories, songs and characters to dance into our however-bleary consciousness one more year. Perhaps, our redundant resolves are simply a feeble attempt to get our souls and selves ready for something we can never be ready for.  An annual stab at grasping the ungraspable and understanding an ineffable mystery.