3 x Insights to help squeegie your perspective:
1. For some diabolical reason, quantum physics seems important to "understand." I have no idea if it has anything to do with character. Which means it just might.
So in the spirit of quantum physics, I wish I knew what I was talking about, but I'm unsure. All I know is that instead of reading a book of solid journalism or a literary mystery, during the holidays I became mildly––flamboyantly?––obsessed with The Fabric of the Cosmos. All of a sudden, the single most important thing for me was not to eat a good breakfast, nor was it to tie my shoes and be a regular fellow. No. My calling was to understand the nature of space, and time, and spacetime, and why Time seems to always move forward even though there's no law that says that it should, and why reality is fundamentally way stranger than I can even comprehend with 100% of my brain. I have no idea about anything anymore, actually. But as they say in the Zen business, "Not knowing is most intimate." I'll let you poor bystanders sit with that without any explanation so you can have a taste of what I'm going through. I am confidant, however, that the less certain you are about how things work, the wiser becomes your way of living; and wisdom is a fundamental pillar of Character.
Nova made four episodes with Brian Greene, the physicist who wrote this book and you can watch them here. Or not. Your alternate selves in a parallel universe will watch them for you.
2. 2017 summed up: Not having Character is Bad. I've attempted to stay a-political so far, mostly, focusing entirely on what character is and how we can cultivate it, and why that's important––Character is our only Life Raft after all. But when the President of the United States demonstrates repeatedly how Character, when it goes missing, can antagonize and divide an entire nation of 300 million at best and can lead––might lead? is slowly crawling toward? to an unprecedented calamity at worst, it becomes disingenuous to not talk about his words, deeds, and actions directly, because we need to see the other side too: when Character is ignored, what happens then?
A conservative voter, Bret Stephens wrote this reflection for the NYTimes this week:
"This is the fatal mistake of conservatives who’ve decided the best way to deal with Trump’s personality — the lying, narcissism, bullying, bigotry, crassness, name calling, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness — is to pretend it doesn’t matter. “Character Doesn’t Count” has become a de facto G.O.P. motto. “Virtue Doesn’t Matter” might be another.
But character does count, and virtue does matter, and Trump’s shortcomings prove it daily.
Conservatives may suppose that they can pocket policy gains from a Trump administration while the stain of his person will eventually wash away. But as a (pro-Trump) friend wrote me the other day, “presidents empower cultures.” Trump is empowering a conservative political culture that celebrates everything that patriotic Americans should fear: the cult of strength, open disdain for truthfulness, violent contempt for the Fourth Estate, hostility toward high culture and other types of “elitism,” a penchant for conspiracy theories and, most dangerously, white-identity politics.
This won’t end with Trump. It may have only begun with him. And Trump’s supporters may wind up proving both sides of Moynihan’s contention: not just that culture is what matters most, but that politics can still change it — in this case, much for the worse."
One reader commented: "The character of a nation is often defined by the character of its leader. President Trump fails miserably in this regard. Most polls worldwide show that Trump is reviled by citizens of a majority of nations, both friends and foes of the United States. The Trump presidency is doing great harm to our image in the eyes of the world. Even if Trump delivers on a good part of his agenda, it will have come at a great cost to the U.S."
3. Resolutions and Motivational Pep talks won't help you in 2018. Odds are you're tinkering with resolutions and schemes about how to be your best self come January 1st, so here's a quick tip: Don't. Big giant leaps and goals are going to doom you to failure and dejection. Instead, aspire to do something meaningful––something you care about and something you would want to do anyway, even if nobody else gives a shit, and step by small step, stay consistent. Acknowledge you'll screw up, miss a day here and there, but get back at it. If you do this most of the year, you'll become more of who you are: tolerant of your own imperfections, and with the chutzpah to continue to keep on keeping on.
Happy New Year, Friends!
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