There's nothing like establishing a pattern of making a new resolution on the 8th of every month to make one aware of how quickly time passes, and how slowly progress is made.  Nonetheless, I press on with April.

One of the joys of this venture is the resolutions themselves.  For the most part they've been new and unexpected:  had I made a list of resolutions on January 1st it would have been quite different.  Even when I'm thinking ahead to what next month's might be, by the time it comes to write it up, something new and different, but to my mind perfect, has appeared out of the blue to supplant it.

Like More Things was like that, a resolution that I don't believe had crossed my mind in over half a century.  After all, what we like and dislike is part of what defines us as individuals, and the ability to distinguish between good quality and bad marks us as mature, educated human beings.  So here is what I don't mean.

I don't mean giving up individual preferences like preferring broccoli to asparagus or Wagner to Mozart.

I don't mean pretending the ugly is beautiful, shoddy work is as good as high-quality craftsmanship, or that war is peace, slavery freedom, and ignorance strength.

Above all I don't mean accepting that all lifestyles, all philosophies, all behaviors, all theories, and all actions are equally valuable.

But not liking things is a great waste of energy, and an insult to God who gave them to us as good gifts.  If a thing isn't out-and-out sinful, why should I not enjoy it? Only if circumstances would make it wrong for me—a qualification covering everything from sex outside of lawful marriage to eating that chocolate-covered doughnut while having given up sweets for Lent.  The array of good things presented for us to enjoy vastly outnumbers the bad, yet we voluntarily close ourselves off from many of them.

If I don't like beets (they make me gag), not only am I not enjoying a good, healthy gift from God, but I'm putting myself in the position of worrying, when we eat at someone else's house, that the hostess will serve beets, and I will somehow have to choke them down with a smile.  And I'm depriving my husband, who loves beets, because I rarely think to serve them.

If I don't like contemporary church "praise songs" (most of them make me gag), I'm cutting myself off from a community experience with those who do, and hindering my ability to worship God in a "contemporary-style" service.

Those are two really tough ones for me, so I'm not starting there.  But I know that what we like and dislike is changeable, and to at least some extent subject to our wills.  Over the years my husband and I have each trained ourselves to relish foods we had previously rejected, or eaten only "because they're good for us," and have made some progress in at least tolerating music that is not to our taste.  Very small changes, I know, but recognizing the possibility of change is a good start.

I don't ever expect to prefer Christian (or any other variety) rock music to Bach-harmonized hymns, and that's not my goal.  But I can take actions to help reduce negative reactions, such as using earplugs (such music is almost always presented at a painful volume), and concentrating on what good I can find, be it a particular line of text or the skill of the guitarist.

When something is not wrong, why torture ourselves by not liking it?

"[I]f a body was never to do anything but what he knew to be good, he would have to live half his time doing nothing."

"There you are much mistaken. ... How little you must have thought! Why, you don't seem even to know the good of the things you are constantly doing. Now don't mistake me. I don't mean you are good for doing them. It is a good thing to eat your breakfast, but you don't fancy it's very good of you to do it. The thing is good, not you. ... There are a great many more good things than bad things to do."

(George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)


Progress report:

#1  Read More Books  Nine more books in March, including one audiobook.  Making progress on The History of the Ancient World mentioned in my last update, but interspersing it with shorter books.

#2  Rediscover Feasting  Some progress; not a lot, but steady.  Having wonderful dinner guests a couple of times made for some great feasts by my standards.  Fasting one day each week during Lent turned out to be much more fun than I had thought; maybe I'll keep it up.  It's really nice to have a whole day with no time spent preparing and eating meals.  I've also been learning from British chef and gadfly Jamie Oliver as well as Michael Pollan; their celebration of good food is contagious.

#3  Learn to Relax  Alas, almost no progress here, and with travel on the horizon I don't anticipate much this month, either.  I enjoy vacations and travel, but for an introvert like me, even the best come with elevated stress levels.  Come to think of it, maybe that will provide an excellent opportunity to practice relaxing under stress!

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 11:27 am | Edit
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