A Small Thought for the New Year

Perhaps the best way for us to call attention to ourselves is not through our attire, not through the car we drive, or the house we live in, but through the quality of our work, the depth and scope of our education, the integrity of our choices, and the nuance of our opinions.

So much can be purchased on installments. So much can be put on display. How common it is to feel special. How comforting it is to feel superior.

Few things, however, mark wisdom as much as the realization that we know very little, that conspicuous consumption communicates a poverty of character, and that feeling ‘better’ than someone else is usually based on limited knowledge…about the other person and ourselves.

So let’s go forth quietly, our only certainty being that others greater than us have come before, and others greater than us shall follow. We are only our unique, flawed selves.

Let’s remember that we use to measure our self-worth is telling: it reveals our priorities and what we hold dear…and what we may lack.

Failure and success are actually rarely definitive and never comprehensive. Victory is never absolute. Defeat is final only if we allow it to be.

It is not all wishy-washy, though. We know in the midnight of our souls what we have done. Whom we have honored. When we have fallen short. Where we could improve.

It is therefore wise to remember that we are human. Prone to mistakes, but drawn to a better world.

Let us endeavor to take the journey.

  • BGT

10 thoughts on “A Small Thought for the New Year

  1. Agreed. One of the greatest realizations I had during my first semester at college. . . my own insignificance in the grand scheme of things and the sheer wealth of information that I do not know. Everyday since has continued to drive those points home in the best way possible.

    Happy New Year,

    Heinz-Ulrich

  2. Efforts at refining our character, and offering our behavior and actions as an example to others about who we are and what we value is pure and honorable. This is preferable to proclaiming who we are, advertising our beliefs, or trying to define ourselves with outward symbols of success. It does require playing the long game, though.

    These things are not noticeable until a relationship is established and are often not perceived for years. For example, it has dawned on me over time that someone was of noble character, or always gracious, or a steady guide and mentor. I could not have realized it with a casual encounter. Sometimes there is a hint of it, but you have to really be paying attention.

    What I see in our modern culture is the opposite of the slow reveal. People go to great lengths to grab attention, however fleeting, and I do think that contributes to a lot of sensationalist behavior. I have personally always preferred the quiet underdog!

    1. I often come to this blog with a pen and notebook because there is so much good wisdom from Byron and his readers. Playing the long game is something I failed to do when I first moved to our small town many years ago. Friendships were established, some red flags were ignored. Byron said it best in an old post about the big mistake of choosing your friends based on personality rather than character.

      Well, when the pandemic hit, characters were revealed and no amount of personality could make up for it! A couple of friendships dissolved. My husband and I rue the time invested in relationships that were wasted. In the process we’ve also found people in our lives who are steadfast and nobler in character.

      These are hard lessons to learn, but growth often requires a good dose of pruning within ourselves and our environment.

  3. Elle, you make a very interesting and valid point about the slow reveal being preferable for so many reasons. These days it seems like too many (most?) people spill everything about themselves within the first ten minutes of meeting you for the first time. . . All in the name of becoming acquainted quickly, signaling some strange notion of personal authenticity, and dispensing with (what too many now consider to be) needless formality. Puh-leeze! Unlike a box of instant pudding/custard, solid, rewarding, long-term relationships take time to develop and unfold as you say.

    Kind Regards,

    H-U

  4. Thank you for these words. They serve as useful reminders for some improvements I am planning to make in my own life.

  5. You’re right. We’re all prone to making mistakes. Often even our ideas about how to build a better world, or deal with it’s problems, turn out to be mistakes.

    I’m currently reading “The Bomber Mafia” by Malcolm Gladwell, who writes for The New Yorker. His latest book is about, well, the American bomber mafia. Apparently, historically, two factions within the air force disagreed on how to win a war. Guided by moral considerations, the bomber mafia aimed for precision bombing in order to spare civilians.

    I find it mind-boggling that, only decades ago, a faction of high ranking officials would disagree with this and opted for the most destructive option, partly out of inhumane racial considerations.

    My next historical reading (if I find any sources) will be about who these people were, their social background. I’m curious whether the “moral” officials were upper class.

  6. In my view any and all ‘moral’ officials were, and are, ‘upper class’ irrespective of their social backgrounds. As has been mentioned numerous times in this Blog, it is by one’s values and behaviour that one will be known.

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