The best is always still to come. The ablity to open and to change is one of life’s greatest gifts. Each of us has a limitless capacity to do good.
Happy new year, gentle reader. 2016 is behind us. It is time to open, and to change.
I love these words on our unique gift of change, from Neil Morrison’s look back on 2016. They are just as relevant to 2017, and to the rest of your life:
at the amazing power that we have as humans to change our circumstances
and make things better. To innovate, to protect and preserve, to cure
and solve and to recreate.”
Change can be large or tiny. Tiny changes can accumulate into profound alterations in your life, your outlook.
A move of deliberate optimism
Change can come from something as simple as that which enthuses you. Discovering something new. I love these words from Carrie Brownstein’s memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl:
“I love being a new onlooker, a convert. To become a fan of something,
to open and change, is a move of deliberate optimism, curiosity, and
Deliberate optimism is something to cherish, to celebrate, to aspire to. It is a dangerous illusion to believe things were better in the good old days. Nostalgia creates an illusion of serenity.
Brownstein writes beautifully about the seductive allure of nostalgia:
is so certain: the sense of familiarity it instills makes us feel like
we know ourselves, like we’ve lived. [N]ostalgia is elating to bask in. Nostalgia is recall without the
criticism of the present day, all the good parts, memory without the
A limitless capacity to do good
I keep coming back to Groundhog Day (which is only appropriate, when you think about it). Bill Murray’s character Phil Conners is seemingly condemned to repeat the same day over and over, without end. As I recently wrote:
“Conners breaks the cycle and is able at last to continue his life by deciding on one version of this life in a day to take the perfect route, the most human route, through each interaction that comes his way. Buddhists might see Conners at last liberating himself from Saṃsāra to achieve Nirvana.”
It seems I was pretty close to the mark here. Over the Christmas break, I read Judd Apatow’s excellent book Sick In The Head, which includes an interview with dearly-departed Groundhog Day creator and director Harold Ramis.
Ramis’ personal belief system was a unique combination of existentialism and Buddhism. Groundhog Day was his purest artistic expression of these beliefs. According to Ramis:
“Serenity is an illusion, but if anything is possible and I can do anything, then there’s a limitless capacity to do good. That’s what Groundhog Day is about. In Groundhog Day, Bill destroys meaning for himself. Buddhism says our self doesn’t even exist. The self is a convenient illusion that gives us ego. […] If you can take yourself out of these existential issues, life gets a little simpler. If life is full of possibility, and I stop thinkng about myself, I end up where Bill ends up at the end of the movie: in the service of others.”
The service we do for others
I love Ramis’ take on the logical conclusion of this outlook on life:
“If life only has the meaning you bring to it, we have the opportunity to bring rich meaning to our lives by the service we do for others. It’s a positive thing.”
Openness to change can and should be a move of deliberate optimism.
Life is full of possibility.
Each of us has a limitless capacity to do good.
- My thanks to Jay Kuhns for his kind permission to use his photograph of a recent dawn over Tampa Bay, Florida at the top of this post. Happy new year, sir!